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Malaysia urges ASEAN to purchase COVID-19 vaccine as a bloc
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members to procure the COVID-19 vaccine as a bloc to increase its availability in the region.
Hishammuddin had raised the need for the COVID-19 vaccine for the ASEAN level in his telephone conversations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
He said that member countries should speak as one voice when facing powers that could help ASEAN, emphasizing that there's no point for the vaccine to reach Malaysia if neighboring countries still face pandemic challenges.
Hishammuddin noted that Malaysia had always maintained that the vaccine must be made globally equitable, accessible, and affordable.
He added that the ASEAN, as a collective of over 650 million people, must position itself as a hub for vaccine production or distribution to drive costs further down and accelerate it as a region for biotech innovation in what he dubbed as vaccine diplomacy.
According to Hishammuddin, the COVID-19 must serve as a wake-up call for the ASEAN members to leave their comfort zones and explore new cooperation areas.
The ASEAN is composed of Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Brunei.