Turkey a strong healthcare champion in 2021: WHO chief

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – Turkey has been a strong healthcare champion in 2021, the World Health Organization chief said on Thursday, and added when the country produces a vaccine, it will help address "vaccine equity."

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus was speaking at a twice-weekly COVID-19 webinar also addressed by Tukey's Health Minister Dr. Fahrettin Koca; and Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and recently named as a WHO Special Envoy.

Both Tedros and Koca agreed on enabling vaccine production globally without making intellectual property rights an issue.

"We believe that we will soon produce our own vaccine. Rest assured that your call upon vaccine-producing countries will be met with a clear response in Turkey,” Koca said.

"Our vaccine will definitely be offered for the use of the whole humanity. Right now, 100 countries do not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine which is why the vaccine to be produced in Turkey will be offered for the whole of humanity," he added.

Tedros, for his part, said: "I fully agree, local production is very, very important and WHO is ready to help countries. I think going forward, that vaccine equity could be addressed by increasing local and regional capacity in production.

"And we have also been calling for intellectual property waiver to help expand the production capacity significantly," said the WHO chief.

At the World Trade Organization, India and South Africa have called for a waiver of Trade and Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) for COVID-19 vaccines but have not yet achieved consensus in the world trade body.

Tedros and Koca also spoke in solidarity with healthcare workers.

"This is the year of the health and care worker. And we know that even before the pandemic, there was a shortfall of at least 18 million health workers, and as we work to end the pandemic and recover together, health and care workers must come first.

"We must ensure that they are trained, protected, and supported to do their job safely and effectively."