Australia commits $500m for COVID-19 vaccine in Pacific & South East Asia

Vision 2020 Australia has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of an additional $500 million over three years to provide safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

The funding will be used to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses throughout the Indo-Pacific region and provide technical support to ensure vaccine safety, efficacy and quality by national regulatory authorities, informed by WHO advice.

The $500 million is in addition to the $23.2 million already committed to international development assistance in the budget.

COVID-19 is having a profound economic impact on the lives of people in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in countries with large tourism industries, after many countries shut their borders in April amid fears the virus would overwhelm health systems.

It is estimated that an additional 1.2 million people in the Pacific and Timor-Leste could be pushed into extreme poverty as a consequence.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said a fast, safe vaccine rollout in the Pacific and Southeast Asia will stimulate economic activity, restore jobs at home and abroad and allow us to return to normal travel, tourism and trade with our key partners in the region.

Ensuring countries in the Indo-Pacific can quickly recover from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic is vital to ensuring Australia’s shared economic future post-COVID-19.

Chief executive of the Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell, said the investment would be “good for our neighbours, good for regional health security and good for Australians”.

The Government stressed that the funding was a one-off supplement rather than a permanent increase to the aid budget.

Vision 2020 Australia and its members will continue to advocate for increased Government investment in Australia’s international development assistance to ensure the eye care needs of people in our region and other parts of the world are met.