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CARICOM Chair lauds Biden for COVAX commitment, thanks India for gift

CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, thanked US President Joe Biden for a commitment to channel $4 billion toward the COVAX facility and thanked India for its gift of vaccines to CARICOM members Barbados and Dominica.

Dr Rowley was speaking at a virtual meeting of the Atlantic Council today on the topic “Re-Setting US-Caribbean Relations.”

Dr Rowley said while ‘others’ with ‘millions of doses’ refuse to make way, India stepped up to gift CARICOM members with vaccines:

‘So far all that we have received are 170,000 doses gifted to a couple nations from the Government of India. Barbados and Dominica who received these gifts, graciously shared them around to many of us.’ ‘This was done by them even as others with millions of doses that they can’t use immediately are refusing to make way for others at the manufacturers.’

Dr Rowley commended the US for its commitment for more funding toward the COVAX facility, reaffirming that the pandemic is a global issue:

‘For CARICOM, our first order of business is to ensure that as many of our citizens as possible are vaccinated as early as possible. This is fundamental to resuming social and economic activity across all spheres. The pandemic has spawned a crisis in health, closed our borders, crippled economic growth and is creating a debt crisis that is unravelling noteworthy gains made by CARICOM countries.'

'Last month, the World Economic Forum cautioned that job creation is slowing while simultaneously, job destruction is accelerating. We all have to fight against that and awaken the opportunities of the digital economy.’

‘A real and present danger is the emergence of new variants which may or may not be neutralised by the vaccines developed to date. It is for this reason that the fair, transparent and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is critically urgent. We applaud President Biden’s commitment to channel US$4 billion to the COVAX facility in the next two years and, the G7 pledge of US$4.3 billion to develop and distribute effective tests, treatments and vaccines worldwide. We too recognise that no country can be safe until every country is safe.’

‘CARICOM wants to work alongside the US and other international partners within a robust multilateral framework to build back better together and ensure that no one is left behind. On February 17, the United Nations Secretary-General regretted that “just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines…while, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.”

'We applaud his resolve to mobilise the entire UN apparatus in support of a Global Vaccination Plan and to bring together all those with the required power, expertise and production capacities to achieve this outcome. We in CARICOM expect to receive our first doses sometime around mid-March.’

Trinidad and Tobago is due to receive around 100,000 AstraZeneca vaccines via the COVAX facility. To date, the country has received a gift of 2,000 vaccines from Barbados which is being administered to frontline healthcare workers.

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