Caricom Chair In Ongoing Talks With US On Vaccine Redistribution

(CMC) — On the same day that the United States announced that it plans to share millions of doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with other countries, the Trinidad and Tobago government has sought to assure that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is in ongoing talks with the US on vaccine redistribution.

A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday noted that Rowley, who is also the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairman, wrote President Joseph Biden on March 19 this year, asking the US to share its surplus vaccines with the region. In response, President Biden confirmed his government’s commitment to partnering with COVAX and other multinational institutions to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Rowley subsequently met with US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, on March 25 and April 7, and one of the key issues discussed at these meetings was the need for the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Additionally, Rowley held talks with Elizabeth Cameron, special assistant to the president and senior director for global health security and biodefense at the White House, on April 19, to again highlight the critical need for the region to have an adequate and urgent supply of vaccines.

“In all these meetings, the Chairman of Caricom raised our heightened concerns about the increased danger posed by the almost inevitable possibility of variants of the COVID-19 virus developing or entering within our regional territories,” the statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said.

“A commitment was received that once the policy of redistribution is readied Caricom will not be ignored.”

Earlier on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses during the next few months.

He indicated that the decision was taken because of the US’ available supply of other COVID-19 vaccines approved for use. It has tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine stockpiled, but they have not been used because the vaccine has not yet been granted emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States has already authorised and that is available in large quantities, including two two-dose vaccines and one one-dose vaccine, and given that AstraZeneca is not authorized for use in the United States, we do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID over the next few months,” Psaki said.

The White House has not said which countries will get the vaccine.

Psaki said the FDA will conduct a quality review of doses before they can leave the country and that the plan to distribute the vaccine is still being developed.