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Caricom repeats call for global, equitable access to vaccines


GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Guyana’s Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony has called upon developed countries to make an interim supply of vaccines available to the Caribbean region.

Anthony made the plea while speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) at a special meeting convened by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council. Dr Anthony lamented, “Caricom remains deeply concerned” about the inequitable access and unbalanced distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally.”

The health minister said that access to vaccines is particularly important for small developing states since these countries continue to experience the devastating health and economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He added that lockdown measures, supply chain disruptions, sharp declines in remittances, and a general decrease in travel, trade, and other economic activities that the region depends on have all been disrupted by the pandemic.

According to recent reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there will be uneven growth in the real gross domestic product (GDP) across the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. The real GDP measures a country’s total economic output, adjusted for price changes. Importantly, the IMF noted that the tourism-dependent countries have been adversely affected due to the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic.

Against the backdrop of this disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on Caribbean states, the minister reiterated the Caribbean’s call for global and equitable access to vaccines stating that this will lessen the impact of the pandemic, protect citizens, and bolster the economy.

“The Caribbean Community uses this opportunity to also reiterate the need for full funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access] facility led by the World Health Organization,” the Guyana health minister stated.

He also appealed for low-cost financing from the international financial institutions (IFIs) so that all developing countries, particularly small states, can contain and suppress the pandemic. He also reiterated the need for enhanced international cooperation and reiterated Caricom’s calls for a global summit to urgently address equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly for developing countries.

“We, therefore, urge developed countries, in particular those in our neighbourhood with populations that travel frequently to our region, and who host our largest diaspora populations, to make an interim supply of vaccines available to the [Caribbean] Community, given the immediacy of the need.”

The COVAX facility, a global vaccination alliance, was created with the mandate of ensuring that there is some equity in vaccine distribution. Several Caribbean countries are now depending on COVAX for vaccine supplies but the scarcity of vaccines caused the facility to scale down the distribution in the region.

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