As countries around the world wrestle with new challenges even as they respond to existing ones posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says there is need for greater international cooperation among all countries, international financial institutions and major pharmaceutical companies.

In a statement to the United Nations on Wednesday 17th February, 2021, Prime Minister Gonsalves said deaths, economic destruction, social dislocations associated with the dreaded virus continue to expand globally as new variants of the virus, with increased transmissibility, threaten to disrupt even the most resilient of societies.

“Amidst this continuously evolving threat, the question of equitable access to vaccines is of paramount concern. The simple truth is that unless vaccines are made available, affordable, and accessible to all, many vulnerable countries and peoples, including those affected by conflict, would suffer unbearably, as the pandemic continues to destroy lives and livelihoods.

“Greater international cooperation amongst all countries, international financial institutions (IFIs) and major pharmaceutical companies is clearly required. The United Nations and its specialised agencies, such as the World Health Organization, should maintain a central role in ensuring that vaccines can be administered, safely, efficiently and globally to all persons in high-risk categories, and more widely, to achieve population immunity,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said.

Dr Gonsalves emphasized CARICOM’s call for a global summit in the context of the World Health Organization’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and global distribution of vaccines. He said an enforceable international rules-based compact to deliver vaccines to all who need it.

“We in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are resolved to share with each other, on the basis of need, whatever quantities of vaccines we receive or procure,” he said.

Dr Gonsalves said that political will, principled engagements and solidarity among all nations remain crucial elements for overcoming the dreaded pandemic.

“There is a disturbing trend of ‘vaccine nationalism.’ Some wealthy countries hoard critical medical supplies, including vaccines. Such conduct only prolongs the pandemic. Many, too, will suffer needlessly, if vaccine delivery is determined by a narrow market calculus rather than the social imperative of building immunity everywhere, in solidarity with each other,” Dr Gonsalves said.

Prime Minister Gonsalves urged that vaccine manufacturers, as a gesture of good-faith towards humanity, work with developing countries to expand production capabilities, thereby alleviating the strain on global supply chains.

The Prime Minister also called for “greater financial support for the COVAX facility to bolster the global inoculation campaign.”

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