'Me first' approach to acquiring COVID-19 vaccines is self-defeatingMonday, March 01, 2021
This newspaper has found reason in recent times to strongly criticise the Jamaican Government for not being sufficiently assertive and efficient in the quest for early acquisition of vaccines as part of the fight against the spread of novel coronavirus here.
The matter becomes even more urgent with the rapid rise in cases across the country and the alarming pressure on hospitals and the wider health sector.
Tighter safety protocols announced by the Government last evening, as part of efforts to reduce virus spread, will obviously lead to further contraction of the economy and add even more urgency to the need for proactive action on vaccine acquisition.
In that regard, we are pleased to hear that 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India are to arrive this week.
We note plans for other vaccine arrivals, including from the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), through Caricom; and the COVAX arrangements led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
We recall that, back in January, India was among countries identified by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton for bilateral discussions on acquiring safe vaccines.
We recognise the constraints in terms of cost and availability but we fully expect the Jamaican Government will now move with far greater energy than previously in seeking to get vaccines from all credible sources, even as it awaits full delivery of COVAX supplies.
Beyond all that, it's clear that there is not a universal pulling together in ensuring that everyone across the globe — more especially those most vulnerable — get timely access to vaccines.
Indeed, available evidence suggests that many wealthy countries are buying and hoarding in quantities far exceeding their immediate population needs. Such is the pressure on supplies that the great majority of governments in poor, less developed nations have no idea when vaccines will be available to protect their people.
We do not deny the right of every country to protect its interests, first and foremost. But such is the interconnectedness of global economy and social activity that the 'me first' strategy will ultimately backfire if the less developed world is left unable to access adequate quantities of vaccines in an orderly and timely manner.
It's a point that has been repeatedly made by the leadership of the WHO and other progressive voices since even before the roll-out of vaccines began.
On that basis, we endorse strong statements last week from Jamaica's Tourism Minister Mr Edmund Bartlett, as well as Caricom chairman and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, urging fair, equitable distribution of vaccines and an end to hoarding, price gouging and, in the words of the Caricom chairman, “undue preference in some quarters”.
It seems to this newspaper that leaders in the Caribbean and the wider developing world must keep making the point as strongly as is possible to their counterparts in the wealthy, developed North that 'me first' is inherently self-defeating.
In this pandemic, as is the case for any similar global crisis, it's in the best interest of every country to protect all others.
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