2022-05-18| Asia-PacificCOVID-19

ASEAN Health Officials to Establish Regional CDC Following COVID-19

by Fujie Tham
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The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted systemic failures in healthcare institutions globally, revealing how international collaborations remain crucial if we are to face the next pandemic. At the 15th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting in Indonesia on May 11-15, ASEAN members agreed in setting up the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED), with formal accord signing expected in September this year. 

The intergovernmental health agency’s three main pillars are prevention and preparedness, detection and risk assessment, and response including risk communication. Established as a result of a feasibility study conducted back in 2020, the center will be financed by ASEAN member countries as well as other governments, eg. Japan, Australia. At the meeting, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand expressed their intention to launch purpose-built facilities to support ACPHEED’s efforts.

ASEAN member states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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ASEAN’s Response to COVID-19

The ACPHEED will play an umbrella role in coordinating members’ health disease response, harmonizing health protocols, facilitating dialogues between ASEAN region and international health bodies, and making health resources developed in above sites highly accessible to all member countries.

With ASEAN regions recovering from the pandemic and re-opening borders to the world, the union recently agreed to mutually recognize vaccination certificates across members. ASEAN Health Ministers and senior officials also concurred to work toward the ASEAN Universal Verification Mechanism, a unified system similar to the European Union’s for smooth international travel with built-in privacy measures. The plan is a vaccine status verification that is integrated into the region’s passports and immigration systems, making cross-border travel easier, especially for the travel industry, which is still requiring vaccine certificates from travelers for travel-related activities.

“We hope that if it can be signed in September, so we can start building it. In Indonesia, we expect that we can use the facility by next year,” said Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, he remarked that should there be another pandemic, ASEAN countries will be ready.

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