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Caribbean to buy COVID-19 vaccines from Africa

Last Updated on Friday, 26 February 2021, 20:34 by Denis Chabrol

Faced with an acute shortage of coronavirus vaccines, the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) bloc Thursday night announced that it would be buying some of the jab from Africa through a South Africa-led initiative.

“Other initiatives, such as procurement through the African Union’s African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), as well as bilateral arrangements, are being pursued by some Member States with the support of CARICOM.  We commend the government of the Republic of South Africa and the African Union, for having carved out an allocation for CARICOM countries,” regional leaders said in a statement at the end of their mid-term summit that was held virtually.

CARICOM Chairman, Keith Rowley lamented that apart from the 170,000 doses that were donated by India, the region has been unable to acquire more vaccines because suppliers have said they are overbooked. “We have not been able to access vaccines in the way that we anticipated  the large supplies and the major countries have bought up all of the supplies and the suppliers are telling us that they are unable to accept orders from us,” said Rowley who is the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

He also expressed disappointment that the COVAX Facility has not provided any of the jabs to the Caribbean, even as big nations like the United States (US) continue to buy up all of the supplies. CARICOM also appealed to Developed Nations to come to the rescue of the Caribbean whose tourism-dependent economies have been devastated by a major slump in tourist arrivals mainly from the US and Europe. “We urge developed countries, and especially those in our neighbourhood whose populations travel frequently to our region, and who host our largest diaspora populations, to make some available to the Community, initially as an interim supply given the immediacy of the need. CARICOM has taken a decision to write to the governments of some traditional partners on the matter,” CARICOM  said in a statement.

Rowley said CARICOM planned to raise its concerns about  vaccine supplies with the new United States government led by President Joe Biden. “The  main and the most immediate thing is the vaccine access; access to vaccines, that’s urgent,” he told a news conference.

CARICOM is made up of 12 independent former British colonies, the British overseas territory of Montserrat, Haiti and Suriname.