'The threat of vaccine nationalism must be confronted' – TuftonThursday, April 22, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has joined Prime Minister Andrew Holness' call for developing countries to advocate for the release of pent up supply of vaccines, and for there to be equity in the distribution of vaccines, especially to those countries with limited resources.
“The threat of vaccine nationalism must be confronted,” Dr Tufton told the House of Representatives yesterday, while highlighting that COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) has been a very useful facility in ensuring some access.
“We acknowledge the work of the Gavi Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO), and Pan American Health Organization in supporting this facility and ensuring that countries have access to safe vaccines. To date Jamaica has received 14,600 doses through this facility and we are slated to receive additional supplies in very short order. However, we are far below our target of 247,789 (55 per cent) vaccines to be administered by the end of April 2021,” he said.
“As stated, the success of our blitz operations has shown that we have the capacity to administer the vaccines in a safe and efficient manner and that there is significant demand within the population for the vaccines. The research has shown that up to 40 per cent of the population will take the vaccine, while another 25 to 30 per cent are undecided. The final portion of persons with vaccine hesitancy is approximately another 25 to 30 per cent and they will require innovative strategies to reach and mobilise this population.”
Earlier this month, Holness made a plea to countries that have been stockpiling doses of COVID-19 vaccines to release their surplus to Jamaica and other states with a high demand for supplies.
Making the call in the House of Representatives, Holness said it would be a travesty for such countries to hang unto vaccines while other countries struggle to source adequate doses for their populations.
“We are calling on the countries that maintain large supplies of vaccines to release a portion of their stock to other countries — and were not asking for them to give [them to] us. I think that if countries hold stocks to the point of their expiration it would be the greatest tragedy to humanity,” he told the House.
The WHO has also called out countries for vaccine nationalism, notwithstanding the COVAX facility which was designed to ensure equity in the vaccine market. Some rich countries have been dominating supplies via bilateral and other arrangements, forcing less-resourced countries to scramble to source supplies.
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