Caribbean leaders want better access to COVID vaccine
The 15-member Caribbean Community on Friday called for fair, transparent and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, noting that some wealthy countries have plentiful supplies while many poorer countries do not have. not received a single dose.
“So far, all we have received are 170,000 doses offered to some nations by the Indian governmentsaid Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley, chairman of the regional bloc known as CARICOM. “Barbados and Dominica, who received these gifts, graciously shared them with many of us. It was done by them even as others with millions of doses they cannot immediately use refuse. to make room for others on the shipping line of manufacturers.
Rowley made the call on behalf of the bloc during a virtual appearance sponsored by the Atlantic Council Latin American Center Adrienne Arsht. His plea comes like most Caribbean and Latin American countries continue to wait for COVID-19 vaccine deliveries of a slow installation supported by the United Nations known as COVAXand as global vaccine shortages and the rapid spread of coronavirus variants increase the urgency for relief.
Ensuring that the UN-supported facility, which made its first delivery to Ghana this week, works for the benefit of small- and middle-income countries, like those in the Caribbean, is an area where the United States could play a role. of leadership, Rowley said, as he welcomed the Biden administration’s commitment to funnel $4 billion into it over the next two years. He urged wealthier countries to ensure that part of the vaccine supply goes to COVAX.
“America more than any other country can change what’s happening right now,” Rowley said. “Unfortunately, what has happened and is happening is that…bigger, more powerful countries with more influential politics and bigger wallets literally dominate the supply and distribution of available vaccines.”
Earlier this week, Pan American Health Organization Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said increasing access to COVID-19 in the Americas should be a top priority. Etienne said it is not acceptable that only 28 countries and territories in the region have received vaccines under bilateral agreements or from other countries like India.
“Our region has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other and millions of people remain vulnerable to infection and death,” Etienne said. “The life-saving power of vaccines should not be a privilege for the few, but a right for all.”
During his speech to the Atlantic Council, Rowley said some small Caribbean islands dependent on tourism had seen their economies decimated. The virus has forced borders to close, crippled growth and fueled a debt crisis that is wiping out economic gains. He made a strong call for debt relief and access to low-income loans.
While ensuring that as many Caribbean nationals are vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible is CARICOM’s top priority, Rowley said the regional bloc is also concerned about security, prosperity, energy, education and health.
“This conjuncture is a great opportunity to reset the relationship between the United States and our region, on these same issues,” he said.
As part of this new relationship, Rowley said CARICOM wants to see a “prompt and impartial review of the United States’ ‘scorched earth’ policy toward Venezuela and a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.” .
“We know the nature of the issues and the history of the challenges in both areas,” Rowley said. “However, we were very disappointed when the United States recently reversed very welcome and hesitant steps towards normalizing the relationship; and more recently the announcement of the unconvincing designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
While CARICOM has always been united on its Cuban stance, the bloc under the previous Trump administration found its relationship with the United States and fellow members tested as they split over the issue. Rowley said on Friday that the “ineffective and harsh policies and sanctions of the United States contribute enormously to further widespread discriminatory suffering in this Caribbean nation.”
With Venezuela, Caribbean leaders want the United States to “give dialogue a chance. Norway encouraged this, as did Mexico. The United States again has the stature and the interest to bring the Venezuelan parties to a table.
This story was originally published February 26, 2021 2:51 p.m.