The US may utilise the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and not the Covax facility to help distribute some of the 60 million vaccines it is sharing with smaller countries.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne was on The Morning Brew on Wednesday to discuss the decision by the United States to share its surplus vaccines and detailed some of the talks currently going on to utilise other avenues of distribution.
Trinidad and Tobago signed on to the Covax facility last year and was expected to receive 100,800 vaccines. So far T&T has received 33,600 vaccines from Covax, the balance is expected to be delivered but there is no confirmed delivery date yet.
“Our anticipation is that the USA would be utilising other means of getting these vaccines more directly to areas of severe need,” he said.
“Covax has clearly hit some limitations,” he said.
Browne said that Covax has not been able to fulfil the vaccine needS and he hoped that the US utilised the other avenues for vaccine distribution.
“There have been discussions focused on Carpha and identifying whether they can serve a role in facilitating distribution of vaccines to the region,” he said.
“That was an inquiry actually from the US side. So there is some exploration of some means outside of Covax,” he said.
He said that one of the biggest challenges in the fight against COVID-19 is the acquisition of vaccines.
“It has been well recognised that these vaccines are really essential to help countries stabilise and bring the epidemic under control and reduce the risk of serious illness and death,” he said.
Browne said that he was “very pleased” with the announcement that the US was going to share 60 million of its vaccine stash.
Browne said that there was been “significant follow-up” since that announcement.
He said T&T needed to “be proud” of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for stepping up the acquisition of vaccines.
Browne said that Rowley has been “one of the strongest and earliest voices” on this stage to get vaccines for the Caribbean.
Back in March, Rowley highlighted that richer countries were hoarding the vaccines and even clogging up the manufacturers so that less developed countries were unable to get in the line to order vaccines. One manufacturer, the Serum Institue of India was so over-subscribed by larger countries that it could not take any orders from smaller countries like those belonging to Caricom.
“So the Prime Minister spoke with the Director-General of the WHO (World Health Organisation) on a global platform, he’s spoken to leading USCongresspersons, he’s spoken at the Atlantic Forum and a range of other important opportunities as a voice of advocacy on behalf of Caricom and on behalf of the people of this country,” he said.
Rowley also wrote directly to US President Joe Biden on March 19 asking that surplus vaccines be shared with smaller countries.
Biden responded directly to Rowley on April 1 saying that while his first obligation was to the US population, once he was able, he would share the vaccines.
Browne said that Rowley also spoke to other world leaders with specific requests for vaccines.
“In fact the Prime Minister’s letter to President Biden, he recommended that the US utilises its excess AstraZeneca vaccines and such available to Caricom and countries in our region,” he said.