Political and vaccine accessFriday, March 26, 2021
The Government's sacrificial financial commitments towards the purchasing of vaccines to ensure the protection of the people of Jamaica during this novel coronavirus pandemic is commendable; however, limited access by Jamaica and its Caricom partners to sufficient quantities highlights the need to support research work of the scientific community within Caricom and other parts of the Caribbean.
The current world economic order, with its politics of access to the COVID-19 vaccines, reveals an oppressive system built on selfishness and individualism. Such political associations by Jamaica has blinded us from embracing opportunities for furthering medical research with our neighbour Cuba for the benefit of Jamaica and its Caricom partners.
One can recall an offer made by Cuba to Jamaica in 2014 to participate in its Ebola research, and to work with its medical team in Africa, so as to know what to do in a similar health care crisis. This offer was rejected and COVID-19 has caught the emperor naked.
It is disconcerting that after one year, with the exception of Cuba, the medical community within Caricom has not ventured on the path of providing vaccinations, at least this information has not been made public. We have forgotten that Jamaica has a tradition of pioneering medical research.
One can also recall the work of the late Professor Louis Grant, also known as “the master of disease”, whose team found a wide spectrum of arboviruses in Jamaica. All were dangerous and he is accredited in discovering a particular strain of influenza found only in Jamaica. However, the problem faced in upholding the legacy of Professor Grant, who founded the Foundation for International Self-Help and Development (FISH), and the scientific community in Jamaica, is the lack of funding by the private sector and governments within Caricom, who failed to support financially such research.
It is time for the Ministry of Health and Wellness to challenge the default future of medical dependencies built on an economic order that stifles the creative potential of Jamaicans and the people of the Caribbean. Caricom need to join with Cuba and invite the nations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to circumvent the deficiencies of accessibility to COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility.
Dudley C McLean II
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