(CMC)— The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Friday said it has been able to assist several member countries with the more than US$2 million down payment needed to be able to equitable gain access to a safe and effective coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine through the Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility).
The facility provides an opportunity for World Health Organization (WHO) member states to benefit from a portfolio of vaccine candidates using a range of technology platforms produced by manufacturers across the world.
Countries participating in the COVAX Facility will have access to doses of vaccine as a result of the advance purchase commitments made by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI). As doses become available, they will be allocated to all participating member states in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed.
CARPHA executive director, Dr Joy St John, told a virtual news conference that the vaccine will be developed “after the safe and thorough clinical trials of the COVAX Facility.”
She said CARPHA had been able to do this through a cooperation agreement with the European Union and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“CARPHA has an agreement with the European Union which allows for a pot of money to be given for use of purchase of vaccines and treatments and we were very happy when we learnt of the ways in which the COVAX Facility was being facilitated by PAHO for the Region of the Americas of which Caricom (Caribbean Community) is a sub-region.”
She said after much “discussions and consideration and the involvement and agreement of the member states, we have come to this point where we have been able to transfer money…to PAHO for onward transmission to GAVI for use as the down payment.
“I am pleased because we are helping our member states in what is the mother of all crises that has struck the world in an unprecedented manner. And I am also happy because it has been a collaboration between the EU…and PAHO and representing the whole of the Americas”.
The Trinidad-based health agency said that as deaths from COVID-19 surpass one million worldwide, with over 4,000 reported in 33 territories of the Caribbean 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,” CARPHA noted.
Head of Cooperation at the European Union, Luis Maia, said the EU recognises that “no one will be safe until everyone is safe” and hence its involvement in funding the region’s participation in the vaccine project.
He said that the pandemic presents one of the most pressing challenges of all time.
“COVID-19 has caused the pandemic that undermines all sustainable development goals, and for this reason the EU solidarity must prevail to stop the transmission worldwide. As you may know, the COVAX Facility is a global initiative that brings together governments, manufacturers and other stakeholders to ensure the future effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine will reach those in where it is needed, wherever they are and wherever they may be,” said Maia.
He said more than 150 countries are participating in the initiative that was launched in June.
PAHO’s Assistant Director, Dr Jarbas Barbosa, said countries should be prepared for participating in the initiative in order to benefit quickly.
He said there are 10 vaccines now undergoing trials and that for the countries in the Americas, 10 are considered self-financing, 10 will receive support through COVAX and others will also receive some form of support.
He said the countries engaging with COVAX “will have equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccine, including 15 countries and territories in the Caribbean. Seven are self-financing and six are COVAX eligible.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the self-sustaining countries for signing commitment agreements… PAHO remains committed to support our member states in all aspects of their preparedness for the introduction of the future COVID-19 vaccine and the strengthening of their national organisation programmes overall,” he argued.
He said through the agreement involving CARPHA and the European Union, “PAHO will facilitate the transfer of the funds…to GAVI for the initial down payment against their commitment agreements.
“When the new vaccine or vaccines become available our member states will be able to purchase them through the PAHO Revolving Fund,” he said, praising the Caribbean for being a leader in primary health care globally.