'First come, first served'
US$36m in COVID-19 funds up for grabs for Caribbean countriesFriday, July 23, 2021
ACKNOWLEDGING that “herd immunity is critical for every country on the planet”, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr Gene Leon on Tuesday hailed the signing of an agreement between that entity and the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the provision of 30 million euro (US$36 million) in financing to Caribbean countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and cover other needs in the sector.
“The reality is that only 0.3 per cent of the more than four billion doses of vaccines already administered have been given in low-income countries, at the current pace and based on issues with procurement and access, most low-income countries are unlikely to achieve mass immunisation — approximately 70 per cent of the population — by 2024,” Dr Leon said ahead of the virtual signing exercise.
This situation, he said, was “clearly a major issue for a region which has been severely impacted by the [novel coronavirus] pandemic”, pointing out that “job losses have reached unprecedented levels, foreign exchange and remittance flows have been disrupted, and traditional revenue sources have dried up whilst Government's COVID-related expenditures have risen sharply”.
“Unless brought under control, the pandemic could undermine and ruin development gains and stymie efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals. Vaccination of the populations to achieve herd immunity is crucial if the risk of infection is to be reduced and lives saved, and for that matter, economies rebuilt safely,” the CDB president said.
In the meantime, he emphasised that the funds being allocated were not new monies but was money that had been allocated for climate change activities, which was now being repurposed.
EIB's Vice-President Ricardo Mourinho Félix, commenting ahead of the signing, said, “By spreading the cost of vaccinating the population over time, and by providing new funding for health sector interventions, the CDB-EIB partnership will help Caribbean countries protect vulnerable groups against the impact of COVID-19.”
“This complements the euro 500 million in funding the EU has provided for Gavi — the global Vaccine Alliance — to support affordable and equitable access to vaccines for 92 countries around the world, including six in the Caribbean: Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.
On Tuesday, the officials who said no cap would be placed on the amount that each country could access from the repurposed sum, said “urgency was of the utmost importance” as allocations would be made “on a first come, first served basis”.
— Alicia Dunkley-Willis
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