As deaths from COVID-19 surpass one million worldwide, with 4,194 reported in 33 Caribbean territories as of October 15, 2020, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has noted that the growing need for a vaccine to prevent illness and death has become painfully evident.
On this premise, CARPHA announced today that it has received funding from the European Union (EU) which allowed it to enter into an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to support Member States’ participation in the COVAX Facility. The funding received will help with the required down payment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which is the administrator of the COVAX Facility and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Guyana Standard understands that the COVAX Facility is a global initiative that brings together governments, manufacturers, and other stakeholders to ensure safe COVID-19 vaccines will reach those in greatest need.
With the down payment that was made following the CARPHA-PAHO agreement, more than 1,000,000 doses of a successful vaccine will be available for CARPHA member states when the vaccine is available.
Currently, 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. CARPHA is also assisting seven 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.
Guyana Standard understands that another six countries – Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines – automatically qualify to access the Vaccine Alliance.
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director, PAHO, noted in his remarks that it is imperative that there is equitable access to the vaccine once it becomes available. He said, “There have been a number of important developments in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 200 vaccine candidates are being studied and the global health community is working diligently in the hopes that one or more of these will prove to be effective…There are currently 10 vaccines in Phase Three of clinical trials, or the final stages of clinical trials”
The Assistant Director added, “We do not yet know which vaccine will be found safe and effective and how it will work. But we do know that if we don’t prepare now, we will miss the opportunity to benefit from it quickly.”
As for Mr Luis Maia, Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, he was keen to recall in April 2020, the European Union and the Caribbean Public Health Agency signed a grant contract valued at 8 million Euros which was aimed at supporting the region in its efforts to be prepared and fight the pandemic.
Mr. Maia said, “I am pleased to say that after six months from the signature of this grant, substantial actions have been carried out towards achieving the intended objectives.”
Finally, thinking about the near future, he said that significant funds were set aside to finance treatment and vaccines when they become available. He said, “Therefore, this is a significant moment as USD $2 million from this EU-funded grant have just been transferred to the COVAX Facility.
This translates into an upfront payment for more than 1,000,000 doses of a successful vaccine for CARPHA member states when the vaccine is available.” The official said this should contribute to moving the countries in the region into a position where the virus no longer negatively affects the health system, the economy or the everyday life of its citizens.