CARIBBEAN Public Health Agency (CARPHA) executive director Dr. Joy St John on Monday praised Caricom heads of government for leading the region’s charge to protect its people against the ravages of the covid19 pandemic and ensure equitable access to covid19 vaccines.
Among the leaders praised by St John were the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, St Vincent, and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Dr. Rowley is the current Caricom chairman. Gonsalves and Mottley are his two immediate predecessors.
During an Association of Caribbean States (ACS) virtual conference on covid19, St John said Caricom’s response to the pandemic had been spearheaded admirably by its leaders.
Among those identified by St John as invaluable contributions to these efforts were “the past and current chairs of the conference of heads of government, starting with the Hon Mia Mottley of Barbados, the Hon Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and our current chair, the Hon (Dr) Keith Rowley of TT.
“They argued for the right to access of PPE (personal protective equipment) and, most recently, vaccines.”
On equity in vaccine distribution, she said, “CARPHA devised an allocation formula based on the burden of disease and the age profile of member states, among many other things.”
On testing for covid19 variants in the Caribbean, St John said, “So far, we have only detected the UK variant, and another variant is closely related to the Brazilian but still a little different.”
She lamented there had been an “infodemic” in the region caused by “false information and misinformation and disinformation” about covid19. CARPHA, St John continued, has worked with its partners in each of its member states to provide information that helps people to understand covid19 better.
While vaccines through the Covax facility are expected in the Caribbean soon, St John said, “We have benefited from donations from the government of India.”
India donated 100,000 doses of vaccine to Barbados and 70,000 doses to Dominica. Barbados shared 2,000 doses with TT.
Last month, Rowley said Caricom would seek to obtain additional vaccines from India and the African Union and ask any of its member states who acquire vaccines to share some with those states which had been unable to do so. He also said Caricom would approach the Biden administration to ask the United States to provide vaccines for the Caribbean.
“What the US could do, along with other major influential countries, is to ensure that whatever (vaccine) is available in whatever volume, that some of that gets to the Covax so that the Covax mechanism can play its role in ensuring that the small and medium-income countries will have (access to vaccines).”