Sun | Sep 26, 2021

CDB, EIB sign agreement for regional countries to access vaccines

Published:Wednesday | July 21, 2021 | 12:10 AM
Caribbean Development Bank President Dr Gene Leon (left) and European Investment Bank Vice-President Mourinho Felix Ricardo show off the agreement signed to assist regional countries acquire vaccines.
Caribbean Development Bank President Dr Gene Leon (left) and European Investment Bank Vice-President Mourinho Felix Ricardo show off the agreement signed to assist regional countries acquire vaccines.
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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC):

The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on Tuesday signed a Euro 30-million (one euro=US$1.29 cents) agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) that will assist borrowing member countries (BMCs) to procure vaccines and other health-related supplies as they seek to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDB President Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon told the virtual signing ceremony that the funds will allow the BMCs to address critical challenges in their healthcare systems.

He said that the effects of the pandemic “have been unprecedented and widespread”, challenging the development community to come up with innovative solutions that can help the most disadvantaged countries respond swiftly, meaningfully and effectively to the crisis.

Leon said that more than 15 months after the pandemic, the reality remains that less than one per cent of the more than four billion doses of vaccines have been made available to low-income countries, including those in the Caribbean.

MASS IMMUNISATION

“At the current pace and based on issues with procurement and access, most low-income countries are likely to achieve mass COVID immunisation, approximately 70 per cent of the population by 2024. This is clearly a major issue for our region, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Job losses have reached unprecedented levels, foreign exchange and remittance flows have been disrupted, and traditional revenue sources have dried up, while governments’ COVID-related expenditures have risen sharply.”

The CDB president warned that unless brought under control, the pandemic could undermine “hard-won development gains” and stymie efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said vaccinations to achieve herd immunity “is crucial if the risk of infection is to be reduced and lives saved and, for that matter, economies rebuilt safely”.

Leon said that while the BMCs have received vaccines under the COVAX Facility and bilateral donations from partners, the optic of vaccines, at least one dose, ranges from 5.5 per cent in Jamaica to 71.4 per cent in the Cayman Islands.

“This less-than-stellar performance is rooted in vaccine supply issues, costs and vaccine hesitancy in our countries. A global infodemic around vaccines has equally influenced the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of persons, including our healthcare workers.

“The CDB and the EIB are constantly being challenged to become even more creative in crafting appropriate initiatives to support our member countries. The availability of this 30 million euros will be critical for BMCs getting more affordable access to safe vaccines and related material, equipment and services for the populations,” Leon said.

He said that the pandemic has “clearly brought home the concept of the global village, and we have realised that no one is safe unless everyone is safe”.

Leon added that the current initiative with the EIB is a continuation of that financial institution’s support for the region.

‘Our strong partnerships which have spanned several decades is an excellent model of cooperation for achieving shared goals and bringing nations from across the globe together,” he added.

CLIMATE RESILIENCE

The initiative is part of the Euro120-million climate facility the EIB is providing for the region in order to be more climate resilience. EIB Vice-President Mourinho Felix Ricardo said it was necessary for all stakeholders to find “intelligent ways to maximise efficiency and effectiveness of the available public resources, namely by… bringing in private investors”.

“The EIB Group can help to identify ... and help implement such instruments for the benefit of the Caribbean region,” he said, making reference to the Caribbean Investment Facility “which has made over US$150 million available in grants to complement loan financing by development financing institutions.

“In the future, the European Union will work with guarantees to support private-sector lending, an area where the EIB has … experience with our activities in the European Union. We gladly offer to share this experience whenever it may be useful, to make the best for our citizens.”