US congresswoman, PAHO welcome US vaccine distribution initiative

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have welcomed US President Joseph Biden’s vaccine initiative to distribute to the Caribbean and other countries.

“As a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee and the founding co-chair of the Congressional Caribbean and House Haiti Caucuses, I applaud President Biden and his administration for answering our calls to introduce a competent global vaccination plan to support our neighbours, particularly Caribbean nations, who have been some of the hardest hit by the devastating effect of COVID-19,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“Let me be very clear: As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, we are all still vulnerable,” added the representative for the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.

“I am proud the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated right here at home.

“The allocation of approximately 6 million doses to the Caribbean and Latin America is a poignant step in the right direction that will dramatically stem the tide of COVID’s deadly progression in the region,” Clarke told CMC.

A White House statement said that US Vice President Kamala D Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, spoke on Thursday with Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) on the initiative. She also discussed the matter with other leaders.

“In four separate calls, the vice president notified each of the leaders that the Biden-Harris administration will begin sharing the first 25 million doses of COVID vaccines to their respective countries and others, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s framework for sharing at least 80 million vaccines globally by the end of June,” the statement said.

PAHO Director Dr Carissa F Etienne thanked the United States government for its commitment to a COVID-19 vaccine dose-sharing plan through COVAX.

“The actions announced today by the White House are a good step forward in our drive to get vaccines into the arms of our people in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Dr Etienne said, adding “we are grateful for this dose-sharing initiative and encourage other countries with surplus vaccines to follow the lead of the United States.”

The US said it plans to send the first tranche of 25 million doses, including 19 million procured through COVAX, to countries around the world.

The White House said this includes approximately six million for South and Central America, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other CARICOM countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.

The PAHO director noted that “effective vaccines are a beacon of hope in this crisis, and we must do all in our power to secure more doses for all nations in the Americas. Regional solidarity, including the donation of vaccine doses, will be key to get us through the current shortage of supply.

“This pandemic is far from over, and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean severely, affecting our health, our economies, and entire societies. Yet only about 8 percent of our citizens have been vaccinated. The region is an epicentre for COVID-19 suffering. It should be an epicentre for vaccination, too.

“Our most urgent need continues to be additional vaccines, and as we thank the United States, I also want to repeat our call for other donations of vaccines to the countries of the Americas (including the Caribbean), which have a high epidemiological burden and not enough vaccines to reach a high proportion of their populations,” she added.

To date, Dr Etienne said COVAX has delivered some 18.9 million doses of vaccines to 31 countries in the Americas.

She said PAHO and its Revolving Fund are working with governments, producers and other partners to ensure more vaccines can reach Latin America and the Caribbean, “where these life-saving doses are urgently needed”.

A carton box of a Covishield vaccine developed by Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII) is unloaded at the Mumbai airport on February 24, 2021, as part of the Covax scheme, which aims to procure and distribute inoculations fairly among all nations. (Photo: AFP)

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