RADHICA DE SILVA
The current COVID-19 vaccination drive could become useless in the future if there is no fair and equitable vaccination for all countries of the world.
So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he addressed a seminar hosted by the Atlantic Council on Friday.
Saying the COVID-19 crisis had created a debt crisis in the Caribbean, Dr Rowley said it was important to have fair, equitable and transparent access to vaccines.
“Some of us, like Trinidad and Tobago, have grappled with collapse and fluctuations in energy and commodity prices. Crude declined by 23.9 per cent, natural gas declined by 2.9 per cent in 2020. Our high food import bill currently stands at US$4.7 billion and increasing and we also face the impacts of extreme weather systems such as hurricanes and floods,” he added.
The Prime Minister said vulnerable nations have not been getting access to the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“A real and present danger is the emergence of new variants which may or may not be neutralised by the vaccines developed to date. It is for this reason that the fair, transparent and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is critically urgent. We applaud President Biden’s commitment to channel US$4 billion to the COVAX facility in the next two years and, the G7 pledge of US$4.3 billion to develop and distribute effective tests, treatments and vaccines worldwide. We too recognise that no country can be safe until every country is safe,” he said.
He noted that CARICOM wants to work alongside the US and other international partners within a robust multilateral framework to build back better together and ensure that no one is left behind.
“On February 17, the United Nations Secretary General regretted that “just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines…while, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose,” Dr Rowley revealed.
He said, “We applaud his resolve to mobilise the entire UN apparatus in support of a Global Vaccination Plan and to bring together all those with the required power, expertise and production capacities to achieve this outcome.”
Dr Rowley also said CARICOM countries expect to receive their first doses sometime around mid-March.
“So far all that we have received are 170,000 doses gifted to a couple of nations from the Government of India. Barbados and Dominica who received these gifts graciously shared them around to many of us. This was done by them even as others with millions of doses that they can’t use immediately are refusing to make way for others at the manufacturers,” he said.
He noted that CARICOM looks forward to working with the US and other partners to navigate global economic challenges.
“CARICOM is calling for a global consideration of our peculiar challenges. We believe the time is now for the use of a multidimensional Vulnerability Index for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to supplement the current, but inherently flawed, the criterion of GDP per capita, to measure development,” he said.