Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 08, 2021 (SKNIS): The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, has made a clarion call for rich countries to show more solidarity and compassion in helping Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in procuring more COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking at a ceremony at the RLB International Airport in Basseterre where 21, 600 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine were received through the COVAX facility on April 7, 2021, Dr. Harris said, “No country is safe, no nation is secure until all countries are safe.”
“In my capacity As Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and in my role as CARICOM Lead Head for Human Resources, Health, and HIV, I want again to call on the wealthier nations to do more to assist developing countries,” he said. “I want to reiterate a call I made earlier to the G7 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the USA (United States of America), as well as to the EU (European Union) to do more to make vaccines available to small, vulnerable nations and those in need.”
“In the context of vaccines, for example, there is no producer within the Caribbean region. The producers are all elsewhere, in the United Kingdom, in the USA, and those countries by nature of their own policies can determine who gets. We have already seen in Europe where some countries took the decision that they will restrict exports of vaccines until they were satisfied that the producers could deliver the quantities that they had committed to them. That is one example of why we need international solidarity, a common approach, and a common commitment to equitable access to the vaccines,” he added.
Additionally, he said, “Countries with power are able to control supply chains. Countries with resources, countries which are rich, always determine market forces, whether it is oil, or it is sugar, they will determine because they have the resources and the power structures to do so.”
Prime Minister Harris praised COVAX, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others, for the work that it is doing.
“At the broader global level, we need every country to be working in solidarity to ensure that our world can be a safe place for all of us. And that is why the efforts by COVAX are so crucial to ensure that no country is left behind,” he said.
COVAX is one of the three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, an initiative begun in April 2020 by the WHO, the European Commission, and the government of France as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVAX coordinates international resources to enable low-to-middle-income countries equitable access to COVID-19 tests, therapies, and vaccines. By 15 July 2020, 165 countries – representing 60% of the human population – had joined COVAX for the work it is doing in procuring vaccines for poorer countries.
“We were up to a couple of weeks back faced with the challenge that we had no vaccine. Today we are closer to ensuring that our future can be safer and better as a result of this further supply,” he said upon receiving the vaccines.
However, Prime Minister Harris said enough is not being done in relation to vaccine equity.
“The world will not fully recover if we have the vaccine haves and the vaccine have nots, and that is where again, the solidarity, the coming together becomes important, and an entity like COVAX assumes greater relevance and importance to us in this part of the globe,” he said.
“Already we are aware that about 76 percent of all vaccines have been purchased by nine of the wealthiest countries in the world. There are challenges of equity, challenges of solidarity, challenges of where the world will go, whether we will go together, or we will have each one fighting for itself,” Prime Minister Harris said.
The G7 countries possess 64% of the world’s wealth and have a very high human development index. Member countries also represent 46% of the global GDP.