Caribbean countries including Barbados, have been asked to join their Latin American counterparts in pursuing production of their own vaccines.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) made the call at the just concluded meeting of 32 foreign affairs ministers held in Mexico, which was attended by Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Bárcena said Latin America and the Caribbean, as a grouping, was the region most affected by the pandemic, with just 8.4 per cent of the world’s population but 32.5 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths worldwide.
The senior United Nations official noted that the region faced a paradox, because, although it will grow by about 5.2 per cent in 2021, the debt problem persists along with less fiscal space; millions remain in poverty and extreme poverty while employment levels are yet to recover.
“We are caught in the trap of middle-income countries,” she emphasised, noting that the region faced unequal access to vaccines, while only 16 per cent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean were fully vaccinated.
“We are concerned that some countries’ acquisitions exceed their vaccination needs.
The European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan account for 43.9 per cent of purchase commitments, with just 12.9 per cent of the global population,” she noted.
ECLAC’s highest authority underscored that the health-care manufacturing industry in the region was marked by a low level of technological development and high dependence on the production of multinational companies and imports.
In 2019, the region’s imports doubled the amount of exports, with the deficit exceeding US$20 billion dollars.
“Why did this pandemic catch us at such a bad time? Because we import everything, that is part of the problem. Our national and regional industry produces generic drugs, but not innovative medicines.
We have very low investment in research and development, which we must boost,” Bárcena stated.
Going forward, the Foreign Affairs ministers supported the priority areas of joint purchasing by public health authorities.
They also supported the formation of consortiums for financing research and production, clinical trial platforms, intellectual property, an inventory of regional capacities, regulatory standards, the development of regional suppliers, and universal access to vaccination and primary health care.