New York — As prepared for delivery
"The last year has been a dark one for families all over the world, but the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines provided a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. At long last, the COVAX Facility begins to make good on its promise to make sure that light shines for all.
"And we are off and running. Vaccine doses have arrived in West Africa and Asia, with many more countries to follow in the coming days and weeks. We've now seen Africa's first vaccinations with COVAX doses in Ghana and Ivory Coast, in truly moving ceremonies in both countries yesterday.
"But what took place Monday is more than a feel-good story that speaks to our collective best natures, it is a necessary first step that speaks to our collective best interests. The only way out of this pandemic is to ensure vaccination is available around the globe, and that people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the race to be protected.
"At UNICEF, we are committed to making this happen. Last week's momentous arrivals are just the first batches of vaccines that UNICEF will ship through the COVAX Facility as part of this historic effort to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to around 190 countries and territories. To date, more than 1.1 million doses have been delivered, with more than twenty more countries expected to receive hundreds of thousands of doses this week.
"I would like to thank SII for being the first to help deliver vaccines to AMC countries and for working around the clock to package and make vaccines available in record time, as well as to the Government of India for their immense support. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
"In terms of delivery, UNICEF is also working closely with airlines and other partners to find innovative solutions to help us deliver COVAX vaccines as quickly as possible. We've already seen tremendous partnership. I would like to thank freight forwarders and Emirates Airlines for helping UNICEF with shipments to Ghana and Ivory Coast in record turnaround time. Only today we have 5 shipments including to DRC, Angola and Nigeria where we are delivering COVID19 vaccines consolidated with syringes and routine vaccines insuring children are also protected, among many other 20 countries receiving vaccines this week.
"We have also supported governments in developing national vaccination plans and preparing for the arrival of vaccines. Along with our partners, we have mapped out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity. And we have delivered and installed thousands of new fridges to keep vaccines at the right temperature in health facilities this past year. In Ghana, for example, we have delivered 2,500 fridges since May of last year. But much work still remains.
"With each of these steps, we move closer to the moment when we can start to return to normal for the billions of children and families affected around the world. And this is, obviously, our focus at UNICEF. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be talking a lot about how this pandemic has impacted the lives of children, starting later today when we will be issuing estimates of the number of children who have been unable to attend class in person for almost the entire past year.
"So, when we talk about vaccines arriving in countries, we need to recognize what this also represents for children - it is hope. Their access to education, health and protection services has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. As vaccinations roll out, this will help to bring the pandemic under control so that we can start the work to build a better, safer, and healthier future for everyone.
"Lastly, I want to just pause just for a moment on exactly where we are. What has happened in the span of less than a year is nothing short of astounding. There are no miracles in public health, but if there were, this would be one.
"Not even 12 months have passed since most of the world began locking down, closing up, and socially distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And in that time, not only did the world's scientists rally to do the impossible - identify, test and mass produce vaccines to treat the virus; but procurement and distribute vaccines began because the world's humanitarians rallied to do that together. And not just for wealthy countries - they have now arrived, and will continue to arrive, in the world's least wealthy countries as well.
"These are remarkable efforts, and the work we all - the private sector, UN and development agencies, governments, donors, and other partners - will doubtlessly continue to do more moving together, and will stand for generations to come as proof of what the world can do, when we do it together. It is history in the making. Thank you."