Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister asks US President for AstraZeneca vaccines for CARICOM

Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Gaston Browne

(CMC) – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has written to United States President Joseph Biden requesting that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries be given some of the AstraZeneca vaccines his government is providing to Canada and Mexico.

The White House announced Thursday that four million doses of the vaccine would be released to the US’ two neighbours, marking the first time it has directly supplied vaccines to another country.

In a letter to President Biden, Browne pointed out that the Caribbean is the third border of the US, and the same way in which that country’s safety would be imperiled if the population of Canada and Mexico were not inoculated to achieve herd immunity, the US would remain at risk if CARICOM countries were neglected.

“Our economies have experienced shrinkage of up to 30 per cent; unemployment has risen to over 50 per cent in some cases; poverty has expanded everywhere; and our revenues have declined precipitously, forcing us to increase debt which we have had to incur at high rates of interest,” he said. “The vulnerability of states must become an important criterion in the provision of vaccines, and the Caribbean region is among the most vulnerable in the world.”

Describing the economic impact of the pandemic as “overwhelming”, Browne contended that “many Caribbean countries are in danger of collapsing from a massive economic sclerosis”.

“If these conditions are not addressed soon, we face a crumbling of our security systems from which drug traffickers, money launderers, people traffickers, and organised crime will take advantage to the detriment of our countries and of the US. Inevitably, there will also be a surge of refugees,” he cautioned.

Browne therefore implored President Biden “to take account of the Caribbean – the third border of the US – in his plan to make the US safer by contributing to the safety of its neighbours”.

“For instance,” he said, “it would take only a few hundred thousand vaccinations to inoculate 80 per cent of the seven countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Reaching herd immunity would also be an excellent testing ground by which the US could judge the efficacy of herd immunity.”

The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister stressed to the US President that some CARICOM countries have been able to inoculate a small percentage of our population only because of the kindness of the Government of India that provided 500,000 doses of vaccines.

He added that negotiations with vaccine producers are difficult because supply is limited, and prices are high.

Prime Minister Browne has advised his colleague Heads of Government of CARICOM of his letter to the US President, urging them to write in a similar vein.

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