Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne on Wednesday sought to assure Caribbean countries that their struggles negotiating access to COVID-19 vaccines have not been ignored, and her organization is doing what it can to ensure Caribbean countries get the vaccines they need.
Speaking at her weekly briefing on Wednesday, Etienne acknowledged that regional leaders, like others in other parts of the world, are facing enormous pressures to purchase additional vaccines from manufacturers on a bilateral agreement basis.
“That is resulting in competition from manufacturing and delivery and, at times, higher prices. So, PAHO is tracking this closely and we are keeping a close eye on the gaps in vaccine access. We are well aware that some of the poorest countries in our regional only have guaranteed access for 20 per cent of their population through COVAX.
“We are looking at multiple avenues to address this gap. This, of course, builds on our region’s commitment to solidarity and on PAHO’s track record in vaccine equity for the Americas,” Dr Etienne said in response to a question from the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) about PAHO’s role in brokering negotiations for transfer of surplus vaccine supplies from countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, to Caribbean countries.
She added that PAHO’s Revolving Fund is “looking around, scouring for any available supplies worldwide to help countries from the region access additional doses”.
Etienne said PAHO and the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) are also working together to explore ways to expand vaccine access within the inter-American system, including encouraging countries to share doses they will not use.
“As always, PAHO will play an active role in coordinating across countries to expand vaccine coverage in our region until we have reached equitable access to vaccines for all. We give our commitment to working with all our member states with the inter-American system at the global level to advocate for and put in place mechanisms so all countries can have access to vaccines so we can bring this pandemic to an end,” she said.
Within the last month, more than 2.5 million vaccine doses procured through COVAX – the global alliance to ensure equitable access to vaccines – have reached 17 countries.