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CARICOM “deeply concerned” about access to vaccines

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has called for a “global summit” to address the inequities its members face in accessing COVID-19 vaccines.
In a January 13 statement, CARICOM said it is “deeply concerned at the current prospect of inequitable access to vaccines to address the pandemic, especially for frontline workers and vulnerable populations.”
The 20-member CARICOM, which comprises 15 member states and five associate members, notes that small states will find it difficult to compete in the market place to ensure equitable access for vaccines.
“Given the transmissibility of the virus, all countries are vulnerable and should work together.
The Caribbean Community therefore calls for a global summit in the context of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ACT-A Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. The inextricable link economically, socially, and by virtue of travel with our neighbours and the wider international community, makes it imperative for CARICOM Member States to be afforded access to vaccines as a matter of urgent priority.”
Meanwhile, CARICOM associate member Cayman Islands received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on January 5 when 9,750 doses arrived on the British Airways flight and Ministry of Health began working with the Health Services Authority’s Public Health department to implement the vaccine roll-out. Cayman Islands health officials said the vaccine is voluntary and people who receive the vaccine are given a stamped certificate of record.
“This news is truly a beacon of hope at the end of what has been a long and hard road for so many. We will work through all our vaccination stages as more doses become available, but at the moment we are focusing on those most at risk, including the older members of our population,” said Dr John Lee, Chief Medical Officer. The vaccines is initially available to people 70 and over, certain patients in high risk categories, healthcare workers and other high risk frontline staff. Cayman Islands reports that the vaccine is taken to those who are housebound and administered by a public health official, should members of the public desire this option. When there is better availability of the vaccines, the offering will extend to those aged 60 and above who are part of the first stage of vaccination. Noting that it would take many months to see the effects of the vaccine Health Minister Hon Dwayne Seymour called for Caymanians and residents to continue to look out for one another and protect the community.
“I want to remind everyone that after the vaccine arrives we can all stay safe by practicing distancing in public places, washing our hands regularly, wearing a face covering where required, and avoiding touching surfaces in high traffic areas. Exercising and staying healthy also offer some protection,” Seymour said.
In October 2020 the Caribbean Public health Agency (CARPHA), with funding from the European Union (EU), entered into an agreement with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to support CARICOM members’ participation in the COVAX facility. This will be done through assistance with the required down payment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is the administrator of the COVAX facility. The facility aims to make investments into the acceleration of manufacturing and scale-up of an approved COVID-19 vaccine candidate to secure 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. It was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Commission and France. Grenada is among 92 low- and middle-income countries and economics approved for access to vaccines through the COVAX facility. COVAX reports that the facility will “cover at least part of the cost.” The purpose of COVAX is “to secure and distribute vaccines to poorer countries, to ensure shots do not go only to wealthy nations.”

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