Sun | Jul 25, 2021

WHO Director General: Vaccines necessary to reopen Caribbean economies

Published:Friday | June 18, 2021 | 1:04 AM

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC):

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday warned that the Caribbean countries cannot open up their economies without having access to vaccines.

“It is very important to advocate for vaccine equity so that the whole world could open together, and we should not allow this two-track pandemic to continue or the vaccine inequity to continue,” Tedros said, making reference to the fact that countries with vaccines were now doing better.

“We see a two-track pandemic, one the countries that have better access to vaccines are doing better, while those who have less access to vaccines, we see … increased number of cases and deaths, and that’s why we say it is very important for advocating for vaccine equity.

“The Caribbean at large and the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) cannot really open up without a vaccine,” Tedros said as he addressed the virtual Fifth Sitting of the OECS Assembly that has brought together government and opposition legislators from the subregion.

Tedros said that the need for equality in vaccine distribution drove the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi to establish COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

“At the start of the pandemic, we said the endgame is finding need to acquire vaccines and that’s why we established Accelerator with two objectives,” he said, noting that it was designed to accelerate the development of technologies like vaccine, and also the need for fair distribution.

He said that the situation now is that many countries are struggling with “fair distribution” and “we are failing with regards to fair distribution”.

“So we need to focus on that. We need to focus on vaccines, and we need to push for vaccines now. So those countries that have better access to vaccines, share the vaccines and countries (will) open up together.

“Everybody knows the impact of this pandemic on lives and livelihoods and unless everybody is safe, I don’t think those who have better access to vaccines will be safe and in it is in their own interest, by the way, to share, and that’s the message we are sending from the WHO,” Tedros said.

The WHO official said that for the medium and long term, apart from the vaccine sharing, increasing production of the vaccine is key “and we are already working by starting some initiatives to increase production”.

He said the intention, also, is to vaccine at least 70 per cent of the world population by June 2022.

“So we have a clear target and we are pushing, and your voice will be important to push in the same direction.”