After making repeated calls for global equity in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Mia Mottley is now lobbying for vaccine production in Barbados.
And she said she plans to use the UN Conference on Trade and Development that opened here on Monday as a platform to lobby for a manufacturing or bottling plant which could then be used to supply the region with vaccines.
She maintained that if the COVID-19 pandemic is to be conquered, vaccines need to be readily available across the world.
Mottley told journalists: “The pandemic will finish when we decide as a people globally that it must finish and until such time we will continue to have persons affected by it and we are in the race against early mutations and variants that may well be worse than what we see in Delta which is bad enough.
“We can only ask that all of our actions move to a point of vaccine equity and we can only ask that there also be an urgency about identifying locations such as ours and others in other parts of the world to become locations for the manufacturing and or bottling of vaccines so as to ensure a more ready capacity to those most in need.”
Mottley insisted at a press conference on the opening day of UNCTAD at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that the possibility of a vaccine factory was realistic.
She said: “I do not accept that it is impossible for us to achieve that. I do not accept that it is impossible for vaccine and manufacturing and bottling plants to be available throughout every region in this world to ensure the shortest distance to people’s arms. If we can achieve that and if we can work to that in UNCTAD then I believe that can only lay the foundation for the conquering of this pandemic.”
She said a manufacturing or bottling plant would bode well not only for the COVID-19 pandemic but for any pandemic or future needs for pharmaceuticals.
Noting that the Delta variant was wreaking havoc on the economies and health systems of the Caribbean, the Prime Minister maintained that quick and reliable access to vaccines would go a long way toward prevailing over the respiratory virus which has claimed the lives of almost five million people worldwide.
“Every country in the Caribbean is in the grips now of some kind of surge,” said Mottley. “Delta has been the ultimate aspect of COVID. If we believed that COVID has laid bare all our frailties and facilities then Delta has been the tip of the spear that has gone deep, deep, deep and I say so because Delta is ultimately at its most dangerous when we are supposed to be at our most comfortable, in our homes and with our families.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on a visit here the UNCTAD meeting, called for a bold global vaccination plan to reach 70 per cent of people in every country by mid-2022 to “end the pandemic”
Barbados is an “important and influential” voice at the UN, he said.
UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan pointed to the importance of Barbados hosting the conference, saying it would allow Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to put their agendas at the centre of the international discussions.