Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves says the question of equitable access to vaccines remains of paramount concern as COVID-19 continues to expand globally.
Gonsalves says unless vaccines are made available, affordable, and accessible to all, many vulnerable countries and peoples, including those affected by conflict, would suffer unbearably as the pandemic continues to destroy lives and livelihoods.
These were his sentiments in a statement made to the United Nations Security Council Open VTC – Ensuring Equitable Access for COVID-19 Vaccines in Contexts Affected by Conflict and Instability.
Gonsalves says greater international cooperation amongst all countries, international financial institutions (IFIs) and major pharmaceutical companies is required.
He notes the United Nations and its specialised agencies, such as the World Health Organization, should maintain a central role in ensuring that vaccines can be administered, safely, efficiently and globally to all persons in high-risk categories, and more widely, to achieve population immunity.
He says: “In this regard, we would welcome an enforceable international rules-based compact to deliver vaccines to all who need it. We also reiterate the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) call for a global summit in the context of the World Health Organization’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and global distribution of vaccines.
We in the Caribbean Community are resolved to share with each other, on the basis of need, whatever quantities of vaccines we receive or procure.”
The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines believes political will, principled engagements and solidarity among all nations remain crucial elements for overcoming COVID-19.
Gonsalves says: “There is the disturbing trend of ‘vaccine nationalism’: Some wealthy countries hoard critical medical supplies, including vaccines. Such conduct only prolongs the pandemic. Many, too, will suffer, needlessly, if vaccine delivery is determined by a narrow market calculus rather than the social imperative of building immunity everywhere, in solidarity with each other.”
Vaccine manufacturers are being urged to work with developing countries to expand production capabilities which would lead to alleviating the strain on global supply chains.
The Vincy PM also made the call for greater financial support to the COVAX facility to bolster the global inoculation campaign.