Rishard Khan
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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is ramping up its advocacy for equitable access to vaccines for the region as it called on developed nations with a history of tourism to the island chain to make some vaccines available to the Caribbean nations.

“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 pleaded in a release on Thursday.

The release said CARICOM was “dissatisfied and deeply concerned about the inequitable access to vaccines for Small Developing States like those of the Community.”

“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,” it said.

It also noted that even countries with the funds to purchase have been unable to procure and receive vaccines through commercial arrangements, given the relatively small volumes which they seek.

With this in mind, the COVAX facility may be the most promising route for Member States to acquire the jabs. However, it noted that while the COVAX Facility will provide up to 20 per cent of Members’ needs, “this limited supply will not allow us to attain the regional herd immunity, so necessary to fuel the resilient recovery that we are seeking.”

To date, it said, the only vaccines received in the region 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 once again renewed its call for “the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene a Global Summit to address urgently equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly for developing countries, which should be held in the context of the World Health Organization’s ACT-A Facilitation Council.”

During a virtual media conference with the WHO in Geneva last week, T&T Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Dr Keith Rowley, echoed the sentiments.