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The ANSA McAL Group’s offer of COVID-19 vaccines to its 6,000 employees and their immediate families is a welcome boost in efforts to cover the majority of Caricom citizens at this critical stage in the pandemic.

It is the type of private sector collaboration with governments across the region that is needed to defeat the coronavirus so there can be a resumption of normal levels of activity.

In addition to working in tandem with various ministries of health for the acquisition and distribution of vaccines in the various territories where it operates, ANSA McAL is also exploring options for purchasing World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines on the open market through reputable pharmaceutical companies.

That will be no small undertaking even for one of T&T’s largest conglomerates. ANSA McAL, the parent company of Guardian Media, operates 73 companies across the Caribbean, Europe and North America and now plans to leverage that reach and influence for the health of the region.

Since it is estimated that it could take years for most of the world’s population to be immunized against COVID-19, especially with new strains of the coronavirus presenting greater challenges, this is a much-needed boost for efforts already being undertaken across Caricom.

Private sector support is what the region needs to establish efficient distribution networks and achieve high vaccination rates within months rather than years.

It would cost just over US$1 billion for the 15-member regional grouping to purchase sufficient doses to inoculate its entire population of 18.5 million people.

Through the COVAX facility, Caricom countries will get vaccines for just about 20-25 per cent of their populations.

Most of the region, T&T included, is only in the preliminary stages of rolling out national vaccination plans in anticipation of doses becoming more widely available by the end of March.

Public health authorities in this country have set an ambitious target of getting one million citizens vaccinated by the end of the year—well beyond the 738,071 people that will need to be covered to achieve herd immunity in 75 per cent of the population.

What is required, even before the vaccines allocated through COVAX arrive in the country, is an unprecedented logistical effort that would be difficult for most governments in the region to accomplish on their own.

That is why the input from ANSA McAL may yet prove to be so critical for a successful regional response to COVID-19. Hopefully, other private sector entities will follow suit, giving Caricom member states more than a fighting chance to emerge early from the restrictions of the pandemic.

This must, of necessity, include funding for the additional doses of vaccine that will be needed. The most likely source of that supply might be the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, which has been churning out 2.4 million doses a day of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines.

Like ANSA McAL, there are other world-class companies based in the region with considerable expertise and reach which have already been proven successful in a range of commercial endeavours. These resources can now be deployed to support efforts to rescue the countries of Caricom from this unprecedented public health crisis.