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CARICOM Heads call for equitable distribution of vaccines

CARICOM Heads call for equitable distribution of vaccines

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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is dissatisfied and deeply concerned about the inequitable access to vaccines for Small Developing States like those of the Community.

CARICOM called for equitable access to vaccines in order to curb the impact of the pandemic, to protect its citizens and bolster the economy. The bloc said in a statement “as the virus does not discriminate, access to vaccines should not be discriminatory, with a few countries dominating the market with their resources and their volumes”.

Heads of Government noted that to date, even countries with the funds to purchase, were unable to procure and receive vaccines through commercial arrangements, given the relatively small volumes which they seek.

Member States noted although they all signed on to the highly valued and appreciated COVAX Facility, the only vaccines received in the region to date were through the generosity of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who donated 170 000 vaccines to Barbados and Dominica through bi-lateral arrangements. CARICOM commended Modi for his generosity, which it is understood, will be continued. Barbados and Dominica were thanked for sharing their initial supplies.

Member States further noted that while the COVAX Facility would provide up to 20 per cent of their needs, this limited supply would not allow them to attain the regional herd immunity, so necessary to fuel the resilient recovery they are seeking.

Heads of Government called for a mechanism that allows smaller countries to have access to sufficient vaccines at the earliest juncture, if action is to be put behind the oft-repeated phrase that “no-one is safe until everyone is safe”.

Other initiatives, such as procurement through the African Union’s African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), as well as bilateral arrangements, are being pursued by some Member States with the support of CARICOM. The government of South Africa and the African Union were commended for carving out an allocation for CARICOM countries.

“We urge developed countries, and especially those in our neighbourhood whose populations travel frequently to our region, and who host our largest diaspora populations, to make some available to the Community, initially as an interim supply given the immediacy of the need. CARICOM has taken a decision to write to the governments of some traditional partners on the matter,” a statement said.

Attention is also needed at the multilateral level and to this end, the Community called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to convene a Global Summit to urgently address equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly for developing countries, which should be held in the context of the World Health Organisation’s ACT-A Facilitation Council. (PR/SAT)