ANTIGUA and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, has called for “urgent and equitable release of COVID-19 vaccines, especially for small states.
Ambassador Sanders was speaking at a meeting of the Permanent Council after presentation by representatives of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) that he descried as ‘chilling”.
Sanders told the representatives of 33 countries that tourism dependent Caribbean countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, have been among the hardest hit. “In the tourism dependent countries such as mine, the economic situation is dire”, he said.
Ambassador Sanders told the OAS that Caribbean countries “have neither the financial resources nor the capacity to continue this desperate fight without relief”.
Adding that, “Unlike developed countries our central banks cannot print money to provide relief and stimulus”, he declared “We need vaccines to inoculate our people and provide some level of immunity. Yet, all that we have been able to secure is small numbers that will not immunise more than 10 per cent of our populations”.
Sanders quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres in saying that “what is needed now is the largest and most rapid deployment of vaccines the world has ever seen, reaching everybody, everywhere”.
Pointing out that vaccines are quickly reaching high-income countries, while the world’s poorest have none at all, Sanders called on the OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, to take “a front and centre position in advocating this matter”, and he urged the member states of the OAS to support him “by all means necessary”. “Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake”, he concluded.