No country should be left behind in the race to vaccinate its population against Covid-19, the World Medical Association said today. In an emergency debate at its virtual annual General Assembly, the WMA called for an ‘equitable, global distribution of a safe and effective’ covid-19 vaccine and said that health workers and vulnerable populations should be among the first to receive it.
Physician leaders, noting that clinical trials had been accelerated to fast track vaccines, said that all trials must follow the ethical principles for medical research set out in the WMA Declaration of Helsinki.
WMA President Dr. David Barbe said ‘The unprecedented global effort underway to develop an effective vaccine could leave lower-income countries at a disadvantage. So it is essential that we advocate for a fair distribution of successful vaccine candidates to ensure that all regions of the world stand to benefit as quickly as possible.
‘A pandemic cannot be contained by one country alone. It also requires a collaborative, global effort.’
Public trust in vaccination
The WMA also repeated its warning about vaccine hesitancy and the importance of maintaining other key routine vaccinations, such as for polio, measles and influenza.
Dr. Barbe said ‘It is vital we increase public trust in vaccination in the face of disinformation campaigns and anti-vaccine movements which undermine the health of both children and also adults.’
As a tribute to the thousands of physicians who have died treating the pandemic and the many physicians providing care on the front line, the online Assembly decided that October 30 should be designated the International Day of the Medical Profession.
Dr. Barbe said: ‘It is only right that we pay tribute to the commitment of physicians to the service of humankind and to the health and well-being of their patients.’
Among the other measures being demanded by the WMA are sufficient provision of personal protective equipment, the strengthening of health care systems and zero tolerance towards attacks on physicians.
Let the Science Lead on Covid-19
Dr. David Barbe said the World Medical Association must continue to let the science lead in the battle against Covid-19. The WMA must continue to advocate for adequate personal protective equipment, appropriate facilities and medical equipment, and adequate support staff, he said.
‘We must work with public health officials to pursue policies that reduce the frequency and severity of disease while at the same time allow for an orderly and safe conduct of business and education. Furthermore we must continue to let the science lead us and be vocal advocates for evidence-based treatment and safe and effective vaccines.’
The pandemic had made the intersection of health inequities and chronic disease even more apparent. ‘Those already experiencing health inequity are often those with chronic diseases who are also at increased risk for Covid-19. Even more chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension occur with greater incidence in populations of colour, Asians and also those in lower socio-economic sectors.
‘We can address both health inequities and chronic disease at this meeting.’ He said that as physicians, they must hold themselves to the highest standards.
‘We must stay committed to the core principles of the patient-physician relationship. We must speak out and seek remedies to address violence against patients and physicians. We must point out the inhumanity of societal or governmental actions that target ethnic or religious groups or that use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against others.’
By Dr. Otmar Kloiber WMA Secretary General