PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people over a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that the well-being of Haitians is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.
So far, Haiti is slated to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through a United Nations program aimed at ensuring the neediest countries get COVID-19 shots. The free doses were scheduled to arrive in May at the latest, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing an increase in domestic demand.
“Haiti has only recently completed some of the essential documentation that are prerequisites for processing of a shipping order,” said Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a Geneva-based public-private partnership that is co-managing the U.N.-backed COVAX effort.
The country also didn’t apply for a pilot program in which it would have received some of its allotted doses early, according to the Pan American Health Organization. However, a spokeswoman commended its other pandemic efforts, including reinforcing hospital preparedness.
Many poorer countries have experienced long waits in getting COVAX vaccines as richer countries snapped up supplies.
Several Caribbean leaders including Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness have spoken out against rich nations hoarding the vaccine shots for their citizens and as a consequence, slowing the global vaccination efforts.
Some countries in the region, like Barbados, took matters into their own hands, securing shots through donations and private deals.
Haiti’s lack of vaccines comes as it reports more than 12,700 cases and 250 deaths, numbers that experts believe are underreported.
While face masks remain mandatory at Haitian businesses, airport closures and curfews have long since been lifted, and other precautions are rare.