APEC Ministers: Invest in health equity to revive prosperity
25 August 2021
APEC member economies are united in their call to close health gaps and ensure everyone in the region has access to safe and affordable healthcare. Members believe that strengthening health systems and capacity is essential to achieving sustainable recovery from COVID-19 and bringing back prosperity to the people.
Health ministers, academics, industry leaders and representatives from governmental and international organizations convened for the 11th APEC High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy on Tuesday against the backdrop of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections globally due to the more transmissible Delta variant, which only highlighted the disparity in health systems’ capacity and vaccination coverage.
Opening the high-level meeting, New Zealand’s Minister of Health, Andrew Little, underlined the importance of close cooperation and coordinated response when confronted with an unprecedented and enduring health and economic crisis caused by the global COVID pandemic, urging members to step up collaboration in ensuring health equity.
“The pandemic has been with us for 20 months, and the world is still adjusting to the uncertainty it brings and the constant way the virus changes,” said Minister Little. “One thing that is certain, however, is that good health and economic prosperity are interdependent.
“When we look across the world we can see the toll of COVID-19 has not been borne equally—either between countries or within countries. The poorest have been hardest hit,” he added. “We must work together, both within APEC and more widely, to put equity at the heart of all efforts to combat COVID-19.”
Vaccination coverage across APEC is noticeably diverse, ranging from 148 doses per 100 residents to a low of only one dose per 100 residents. As a result, the rate of fully vaccinated people across economies varies greatly, from as low as 0.2 percent to as high as 72 percent of the population as of mid-August.
Minister Little said international trade forums are critical to safeguard the equitable supply of vaccines and related COVID-19 therapeutic products and reflected on the advancements made during APEC 2021 in this area.
“This year, we are taking action to strengthen international supply chains for COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, to ensure their swift and efficient distribution,” he added. “It is vital we strengthen our collective efforts on trade barriers and that we help facilitate increased manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related products.”
The high-level meeting also focused on the impact of COVID-19 on women and vulnerable groups. Members and experts discussed policy measures that support equitable access to healthcare services for these communities as well as enabling a safe return to work.
Members and experts advised to incorporate health equity into trade and supply chains for vaccines and other medical products, looking at the role of regulatory convergence to improve the resiliency of supply chain.
Sustainable investments in pandemic prevention and preparedness are also key to accelerate economic recovery, mitigate the negative impacts on livelihoods and reduce the possibility of future health shocks. Members agreed that investment in health systems is a strategic asset for economic resiliency.
“We all have a role to play in ensuring the global community emerges stronger from this pandemic,” Minister Little explained. “Our approach must be global, our commitment collective and our assistance must encompass all levels of society to ensure equitable outcomes. Through this dialogue, we can jointly reinforce our commitment to health equity and building resilient health systems, alongside sustainable economic growth.”
For more information on the Health Working Group, please visit here.
For more information on the Life Sciences Innovation Forum, please visit here.