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ASEAN agrees to vaccines travel deal

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Health minister Mam Bun Heng attends the 15th ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting in Indonesia on May 18. MINISTRY OF HEALTH

ASEAN agrees to vaccines travel deal

The 15th ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting was held in Bali, Indonesia, for five days with the theme of “Advancing the Achievements of ASEAN Health Development”. There were five primary outcomes from the meeting, which included an agreement on the mechanism for mutual recognition of digital vaccination certificates.

According to a May 18 press release issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Health regarding the outcomes, the first was the establishment of three ASEAN centres for responding to public health and other communicable disease threats in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – where a secretariat will also be located.

“The second was setting up a mechanism for mutual recognition of digital vaccination certificates initiated by Indonesia, and the third was to strengthen cooperation on prevention, emergency response and early detection of public health issues,” the ministry stated.

The fourth outcome was to ensure access to vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and essential medical supplies to prepare for and respond to possible outbreaks of disease, and the fifth was to strengthen multilateral cooperation in the implementation of the ASEAN strategic plan 2021-2025, especially with ASEAN dialogue partners.

Or Vandine, ministry spokeswoman and head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, told The Post on May 18 that the recognition of the Covid-19 vaccination certificates was essential to facilitating travel in the region for the general population.

“It will also help boost tourism in member countries and the region as well as contribute to socio-economic growth,” she added.

Other related meetings also took place at the conference, including the 9th ASEAN Plus Three Health Ministers’ Meeting with China, Japan and South Korea; the 8th ASEAN-China Health Ministers’ Meeting; the first ASEAN-Korea Health Ministers’ Meeting and the ASEAN-US Special Health Ministers’ Summit.

These side-meetings all issued joint statements on topics such as the goals of public health protection, strengthening health systems, preventing counterfeit medicines, emergency responses to public health issues, strengthening human resource capacity and strengthening the health system through global health coverage.

“The 15th Health Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings were successfully concluded in the spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation among all ASEAN member states and with all ASEAN dialogue partners as well,” said the press statement.

Indonesia, as the rotating chair for these meetings, thanked the member countries and dialogue partners for their close cooperation and full support during the pandemic and handed over the rotating chair to Laos, who will host the next ASEAN health ministers’ conference in its capital Vientiane in 2024.

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