Sun | Jun 20, 2021

EU countries not hoarding vaccine – ambassador

Published:Friday | May 7, 2021 | 12:24 AM
Ambassador Marianne Van Steen, head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica.
Ambassador Marianne Van Steen, head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica.

The head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica said that she is fully seized of the island’s COVID-19 vaccine need but has brushed aside notions that Europe has not pulled its weight in assisting the global effort.

Without naming any country, Marianne Van Steen said that some nations have not exported a single vaccine.

“From the EU point of view, we have put a lot of investment in the development of the vaccine. Now, we have put a lot of funds into the system called COVAX,” Van Steen said during an interview with The Gleaner on Wednesday.

COVAX is a World Health Organization-led vehicle geared at ensuring that developing countries are not starved of the COVID-19 vaccines from their wealthier counterparts.

But so far, COVAX has not worked in favour of countries such as Jamaica as bigger economies have gobbled up much of the supplies.

“We are not sitting on vaccines. We are the biggest donor [to] COVAX,” Van Steen said, pointing out that more than 4 billion euros has been pumped into the initiative.

“Of course, you will say, ‘Yeah, but few have arrived in Jamaica.’ That is true, but if you calculate how much we have sent all over the world, the picture would change dramatically,” she contended.

Jamaica has received more than 69,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine under COVAX, with another 128,000 expected later this month.

The northern Caribbean island is on the back end of a second COVID-19 wave, with massive surges in February and March. But tighter restrictions on movement and social gatherings have reined in runaway infections that caused the public healthcare system to buckle.

Overall infections have topped 46,300 and deaths are nearing 800.

“In terms of the impact of the health situation, I think Jamaica has done relatively well before this hiccup, this spike six weeks ago. We were all very, very worried about what was going to happen in Jamaica.

“But because of the measures which have been implemented by the Government, [it] has come back to a controllable level,” Van Steen said.

The ambassador said that the EU’s perspective was that the world would not be out of the woods until all countries achieved successful COVID-19 vaccination take-up.

“If everyone is not safe, nobody is safe,” she said.