US Ignores Caribbean In Vaccine Diplomacy

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By NAN Staffwriter

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Mar. 19, 2021: The US plans to send millions of doses of stockpiled AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada but none to the Caribbean.

The vaccine diplomacy with Mexico comes as the Joe Biden administration, with a Caribbean roots Vice-President, tries to curb a massive flow of immigrants from the Mexican border who have streamed in since Biden lifted the Trump rolls on COVID-19 and loosened asylum application processing.

Mexico had publicly asked the Biden administration to send it doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in a video call this month. At the time, Biden did not agree. But as some 14,000 unaccompanied minors have come into the US and the Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, herself called it a “crisis” Thursday, the US is now ponying over 2.5 million doses of the vaccine to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada.

The Caribbean is out in the cold, putting the United States far behind China, India and Russia in the race to use vaccines as diplomatic tools in the Americas, including the Caribbean.

India and Beijing have shipped thousands of vaccines to the region as has Russia even as Biden has drawn criticism for not making it easier for poorer countries to gain access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

The region will have to depend on China, India and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The bodies have worked to get 15 Caribbean countries over 2 million free doses of COVAX COVID-19 vaccines which will reach them by May.

The 15 Caribbean countries that will receive the vaccines are Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago. Six of these countries (Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

Jamaica has already gotten 14,400 doses, becoming the first country in the Caribbean to receive the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility. Jamaica is expected to continue receiving doses through May until it reaches 124,800, the amount specified by COVAX.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Jamaica, the country has recorded 31,305 confirmed cases and 492 deaths as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to official data from the country

COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20% of the population of each participating country during 2021. In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 and 2.6% of their population. The only exceptions are small island developing States, which will receive an allocation of vaccines to cover between 16 and 20% of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small quantities of vaccines.

In response to vaccine hoarding by a select few nations, including the US, CARICOM nations drafted and successfully negotiated an OAS resolution that was adopted by acclamation. The “Resolution on the Equitable Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines” was co-sponsored by all CARICOM states as well as eight other OAS members, and it argued that “the world will not survive if 15 percent of the world holds for itself 60 percent of vaccines, and 85 percent of the people must struggle for an equitable share.”

The Biden administration, however, is asleep to that reality as its Third Border neighbors struggle on their own.