Caricom urges WHO to convene international conference on COVID vaccine distribution

February 19, 2021 in Regional

The 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) yesterday reiterated its call for the World Health Organization (WHO) to host an international summit on the distribution of the novel coronavirus vaccine as it continued its call for the global community to realise that the virus affects everyone.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who is also chairman of the regional integration grouping, told a WHO news conference that he is also concerned about price gouging and the other immoral activities lined to the distribution of the vaccine.

“As there is the understandable rush to receive the vaccine and the inoculation of our various populations, we are more than a little bit concerned that there is or is to be hoarding and price gouging as well as undue preferences in some quarters.

“This being so, we at Caricom recently called on WHO to immediately convene and international convention of the world’s peoples representatives to…explain, assist and commit to a fair sharing of the available vaccine resources for the benefit of all humankind and not just a privilege few,” Rowley said.

“Today we continue to make that call,” Rowley said, adding that Caricom is also wary of the many “charlatans who are increasingly emerging as they stalk the vulnerable with offers of opportunities that seem to good to be true, only because they really are, but are protected by the many disguises”.

The Caricom chairman said the work of the WHO “is far from over [and] that now more than ever you are required to protect us” from a range of issues, including inequitable distribution of the vaccine.

“Small states such as ours have made, and continue to make, high and huge sacrifices in an endeavour to protect our populations from the worst ravages of the virus. We anxiously anticipate the promised relief and general benefits that an early successful vaccination programme can bring to each of us.

All we ask as members of a family of nations is that we not be forgotten, ignored or ,worse, taken advantage of in this business of life and death,” he said, noting that Caricom was looking forward to welcoming the hierarchy of the WHO “in a healthy Caribbean in the near future”.

The WHO yesterday said it will continue to work with stakeholders to enable rapid detection and response to COVID-19 cases and clusters, including through an integrated, multisectoral coordination system at central and governorate levels.

COVAX, a coalition led by the WHO and Gavi to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has notified countries in the Americas of the estimated dose allocation for the first phase of vaccine delivery. Thirty-six of the countries and territories participating in COVAX received letters about the estimated number of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that they could be receiving from the second half of February through the second quarter of 2021.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently under review by the WHO for emergency use approval. The number of doses and delivery schedule are subject to emergency use listing (EUL) and manufacturing production capacity, as well as establishing supply agreements between the producers, the WHO, and UNICEF. According to the COVAX statement, it is estimated that around 35.3 million doses will be arriving in the Americas in the first stage.

Countries in the Americas participating in COVAX that received letters are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.