As Barbados received its first tranche of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, Prime Minister Mia Mottley today repeated her call for fairness in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to small island developing states.
At around 6:55 a.m. a red and white Northern Air Cargo airplane touched down at the Grantley Adams International Airport carrying 33,600 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
On hand for the arrival along with Mottley were Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George, Director of the Barbados Drug Service Miriam Hinds, PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Yitades Gebre, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Didier Trebucq. The Ambassadors representing the European Union, United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom were also in attendance.
In her brief address shortly afterwards, Mottley said both rich and poor countries needed to work together if the world was to triumph over COVID-19.
She said while the system used by COVAX to provide access to smaller countries was the right way, it was not proving to be as effective as expected.
“The system has failed smaller nations whose access to the market has been compromised simply because we don’t have enough orders to command attention and if you don’t have enough orders to command attention who are you going to buy from?
“The notion of COVAX we have learnt, is the right notion but what is perhaps regrettable has been the scale and the pace of implementation and, to that extent, the global community must ask itself whether we ought to have scaled it up more or we ought not to have premised it as the first, first line of defense in global security, because in the absence of this kind of equitable distribution country by country, by country, by country, what we will get is a race with mutations and double mutations and variants that threatens to put each and everyone of us at risk again,” Mottley said.
“…I today have joined other Caribbean leaders in continuing to reach out to the global community to say, ‘let us be sensible about how we coordinate distribution and matching the capacity to execute and that without capacity to execute all that we will have is access to vaccines but we will not complete the mission without vaccinations’.”
The Prime Minister maintained that global leaders had not acted in a “coordinated way” thus far and called for more attention to be paid to the production of vaccines.
The health minister said the arrival of the vaccines was a “significant step forward” in the fight against COVID.
“The vaccines will help us to manage COVID, to be able to live with COVID so that people can enjoy what they normally enjoy and to me that is a very, very, very important thing and I can’t say how happy I am to be able to receive these vaccines,” he said.
Trebucq gave the assurance that the second allocation of vaccines – which will cover 20 per cent of Barbados’ population – from the COVAX facility would arrive in the coming months.
In referring to it as a “historic milestone” Dr Gebre said at least 700 million people in the Americas would have to be immunized against COVID-19.
He guaranteed that all of the vaccines provided by the COVAX facility were effective and safe.