WHO Director tells Caribbean nations vaccines necessary to reopen economies

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WHO Director tells Caribbean nations vaccines necessary to reopen economies

Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the Caribbean countries on Wednesday, that they cannot open up their economies without having access to vaccines.

Tedros said it was very important to advocate for vaccine equity, so the whole world could open together when he addressed the virtual fifth sitting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) assembly that has brought together government and opposition legislators from the Caribbean sub-region.

“We should not allow this two-track pandemic to continue or the vaccine inequity to continue,” Tedros said, making reference to the fact that countries with vaccines were now doing better.

“We see a two-track pandemic, one the countries that have better access to vaccines are doing better, while those who have less access to vaccines, we see…increase number of cases and deaths and that’s why we say it is very important for advocating for vaccine equity. The Caribbean at large and the OECS cannot really open up without a vaccine.”

Tedros said the need for equality in vaccine distribution drove the WHO, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi to establish COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

“At the start of the pandemic, we said the end game is finding need to acquire vaccines and that’s why we established Accelerator with two objectives, “he said, noting that it was designed to accelerate the development of technologies like vaccine and also the need for fair distribution.

He said the situation now is that many countries are struggling with “fair distribution” and “we are failing with regards to fair distribution”.

“We need to focus on that,” he said. “We need to focus on vaccines, and we need to push for vaccines now, so those countries that have better access to vaccines, share the vaccines and countries (will) open up together.

“Everybody knows the impact of this pandemic on lives and livelihoods and unless everybody is safe, I don’t think those who have better access to vaccines will be safe and in it is in their own interest by the way to share and that’s the message we are sending from the WHO.”

The WHO official said for the medium and long term, apart from the vaccine sharing, increasing production of the vaccine is key “and we are already working by starting some initiatives to increase production”.

He said the intention also is by June 2022 to vaccine at least 70 percent of the world population.

“We have a clear target, and we are pushing, and your voice will be important to push in the same direction,” he said.

“Vaccine should be the focus whatever we do in the short term and the things we do for the medium and long term.”

Tedron said the WHO was also examining the waiver of Intellectual Property, as well as technology transfer through voluntary licensing or other methods.

“But we need to use all the options that we have, including IP waiver and your support, for IP waiver will be very important,” he told the legislators from Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and British Virgin Islands, as well as the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

“The proposals we have made to the high-income countries, we are not talking about snatching somebody’s knowledge, especially the private sector because the private sector should be commended and appreciated, but the high income countries can give some incentives as part of the stimulus package to the private sector,” he said.