Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 16 October 2020. As deaths from COVID-19 surpass one million worldwide, with 4,194 reported in 33 territories of the Caribbean (as of October 15, 2020), including CARPHA Member States, the growing need for a vaccine to prevent illness and death has become painfully evident. It is critical that there is equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to allow for adequate coverage and a safe approach to achieving herd immunity as no country will be safe until everybody is safe.
In light of this, CARPHA, with funding from the European Union (EU), has entered into an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to support Member States’ participation in the COVAX Facility, through assistance with the required down payment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is the administrator of the COVAX Facility. The Facility aims to make investments into the acceleration of manufacturing and scale-up of an approved COVID-19 vaccine candidate to secure 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“This virus continues to pose a public health threat to our Region and there are currently no vaccines to protect against it. CARPHA has an 8 Million Euro grant with the EU that was signed in April 2020, which includes 3 Million Euros for the purchase of vaccines or treatments when they become available. The EU has approved the use of a portion of these funds to assist CARPHA Member States meet their down payment obligations to participate in the COVAX Facility. The agreement with the European Union will ensure that our Caribbean people, especially the most vulnerable, receive and benefit from a safe, effective and approved COVID-19 vaccine,” stated Dr Joy St John, CARPHA Executive Director.
Dr St John further stated, “To date, 12 CARPHA Member States have signed agreements with Gavi, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos. The agreements are between Gavi and the Member States. CARPHA is assisting 7 of these Member States, with all or a portion of the required down payment. The down payment is approximately 15% of the value of vaccines that countries intend to procure in the future, ranging between 15% to 33% of their populations.”
Another six countries – Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines automatically qualify to access the Vaccine Alliance.
In accordance with the agreement, PAHO will receive the funds from CARPHA for transfer to Gavi for the required down payments. When the vaccines are available, Member States will purchase them through the PAHO Revolving Fund.
“PAHO is pleased to facilitate the transfer of this partial down payment to Gavi on behalf of member states. The COVAX Facility provides the best opportunity for countries to fair and equitable access to a pool of candidate vaccines. This will require the development and implementation of national plans that include strategic health promotion and communication strategies to ensure vaccine demand,” emphasized Dr Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The European Union (EU) has committed to mobilise resources for the Coronavirus Global Response and is providing US$2 million for COVID-19 vaccines for Caribbean countries, whenever a vaccine becomes available. The EU funding which will finance the down-payment for more than one million doses of a successful vaccine for regional countries has already been transferred to the COVAX Facility, through its Vaccine Alliance.
“The European Union is pleased to be participating in this proactive initiative that ensures that whenever a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available there will be adequate dosages for the Caribbean given its economic and other vulnerabilities,” said Luis Maia, Head of Cooperation at the EU’s Barbados Office.
The COVAX Facility which was launched in April, is co-led by Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Facility supports access to COVID-19 vaccines for lower-income economies.