Dec 31, 2020 News
By Kemol King
Kaieteur News – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s outgoing Chair and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has urged that the region rely on the safety measures it has implemented to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, while it prioritises acquiring resources needed to obtain more vaccines. His advice comes as human rights organizations are sounding the alarm on access to COVID-19 vaccines being skewered in favour of the global North.
Dr. Mohga Kamal Yanni, from the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a confederation of global human rights organisations, said a few weeks ago: “Rich countries have enough doses to vaccinate everyone nearly three times over, whilst poor countries don’t have enough to even reach health workers and people at risk.”
Dr. Gonsalves, whose time as CARICOM Chair is slated to end today, noted that the region is looking to receive its share of the vaccine through the COVAX facility – a programme launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to the pandemic. It is meant to provide equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The programme is meant, among other things, to be a lifeline for some poor nations. It will help those countries to find access to concessional financing.
Guyana is one of the countries looking to access vaccines through the facility, and will have to wait months for its quota.
“We look forward to receiving our share through the COVAX Facility…” Dr. Gonsalves said. “However, the quota for our Region will only cover 15 percent of the population. We therefore cannot let our guard down. We must maintain the discipline to ward off the worst effects of the virus.”
He took the opportunity to contend that the basis on which the COVAX facility determines which countries access the vaccines via concessional funding should be amended. Currently, the St. Vincent PM said that the financing instrument for the COVAX facility is utilizing gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as the basis on which to determine which countries access the vaccines.
He said, “The Community is advocating strongly for the development and use of a Universal Vulnerability Index as the main criterion to determine access to such funding.”
“The overall economies of our countries have been hard hit, particularly those directly and indirectly dependent on the tourism, travel and entertainment sectors. The global spread of COVID-19 was propelled by travel, and the curtailment of that activity has acutely affected the Caribbean, which is the world’s most tourism and travel dependent Region.”
While poor countries wait for vaccines, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling on vaccine producers to share technology through the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool so that more vaccines can be rapidly developed for the benefit of more people.
Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima, noted in a statement earlier this month that rich nations, representing 14 percent of the world’s population, have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising vaccines.
She said that the treatments have to be available to all, and that that can be helped once pharmaceutical corporations relax their monopolies on medicines, by sharing their knowledge.
“As we learnt from the HIV crisis,” she said, “this monopoly costs many lives. If history has taught us anything, it is that pharmaceutical corporations create and protect monopolies to maximise profits as a goal higher than improving public health.”
Byanyima said that the world’s best chance of beating COVID-19 is ensuring that everyone is safe, and that if serious action is not taken, the current response to COVID-19 will only reinforce and lay bare global inequalities.
She said, “We must have a #PeoplesVaccine, not a profit vaccine.”
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