Time to dispatch vaccine lobbyists to WashingtonThursday, March 25, 2021
If we have not yet done so, it's time to dispatch or engage lobbyists to seek out supplies of COVID-19 vaccines from the United States, or elsewhere, amid the global scramble among the rich nations for available supplies.
The temporary halt on export of the AstarZeneca vaccine by India makes this nescissity even more urgent.
Nowhere is the fight over vaccines more evident than in Europe, where the EU will, beginning today, institute a six-week ban on export of vaccines manufactured in the bloc, claiming supply shortages which have put member nations behind others in the race to vaccinate their populations.
According to news reports out of Europe, Britain which is the biggest beneficiary of EU exports and Canada, the second-largest, will stand to lose the most by this move by the EU.
“We are in the crisis of the century… we have to make sure that Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible… Human lives, civil liberties and also the prosperity of our economy are dependent on that,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, was quoted as saying ahead of the export ban.
The US appears insulated because it has secured enough doses from its three authorised manufacturers — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — to cover all adults in the country by the end of May, President Joe Biden said. Most of that comes from plants in the US.
The EU started out exporting liberally overseas, but has come under criticism for doing that in the first place, while the US and Britain are seen to have locked up domestic production for domestic use through contracts with pharmaceutical companies.
Last month, the EU blocked a small shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia, saying that the country was nearly COVID-19-free while the bloc was struggling with rising infections.
As the big boys fight it out, poorer nations are looking on helplessly. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has weighed in on the issue, expressing concern that wealthier countries are far outpacing poorer nations with vaccinating their populations.
The UN chief said he was deeply concerned that many low-income countries had not yet received a single dose, adding: “We see many examples of vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding in wealthier countries — as well as continued side deals with manufacturers that undermine access for all,” he added.
The US has over two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines which it has not yet approved for use locally. We can use some of that, even while we acknowledge that the US says it will contribute $4 billion to a UN-supported programme to distribute vaccines to the poorest countries.
What is very clear is that the COVAX facility, on which Jamaica is heavily dependent, is already under pressure to get even promised supplies, and the situation is likely to get worse. Jamaica should not sit back and wait, it is better to prepare.
We have very experienced people, including Ambassador Audrey Marks, who know Washington and the main capitals of Europe and can be assigned to seek out supplies.
One other name which comes readily to mind is Ambassador Dr Richard Bernal, who was our man in Washington for 10 years, followed by a stint as director of the Caricom Regional Negotiating Machinery, and then vice chancellor for global affairs at The University of the West Indies, now retired but not tired.
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