St Kitts and Nevis Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Brantley has asked the United States for a donation of COVID-19 vaccines for the twin-island federation and the wider Caribbean region.
Brantley, who is also Nevis’ Premier, said he had made the request through correspondence sent to US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados, Linda Taglialatela, in which he implored the Joe Biden administration to make vaccines available to the small island developing states with some urgency.
“We in the Caribbean continue to make the passionate plea that vaccines be made available to us with some alacrity,” he said.
“We are aware from reports in the New York Times…that the great United States of America has made vaccines available to Mexico and Canada. I have myself indicated to the United States that…having benefitted the other two borders Mexico and Canada, that it would perhaps be useful for them to think of their third border, the Caribbean, and to make vaccines available to us in the region as well.”
A statement issued on Monday by the Nevis Island Administration said the Premier made the disclosure during his presentation at a recent virtual forum hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS) on Legal challenges faced by the Caribbean in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Thursday, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne also wrote to President Biden requesting that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries be given some of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses his government is providing to Canada and Mexico.
In correspondence sent a day after the White House announced that four million doses would be released to those two countries, Browne asked the American leader 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”.
At the OAS forum, Brantley pointed out that St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the region have been experiencing some challenges accessing COVID-19 vaccines.
He urged the OAS General Secretary for assistance in this regard.
“The difficulty, of course, is that we have not been able to access sufficient vaccines to satisfy our populations…The other issue has to do with the equality of vaccine access and that has proven problematic, because, naturally, some countries are in a better financial position than others, some countries are themselves producers of vaccines.
“And I’m happy Secretary-General, that you are here because I think through your office we can assist each other in saying that there has to be a human right to the equitable access of vaccines, because as we have said and continue to maintain, none of us is safe until all of us are safe. And so, Secretary-General, I would urge the OAS to be a voice and an advocate for us in that regard…. I feel that we have a vested interest in insisting that vaccines be made available to our people on an equitable basis,” he said.
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro, who was also a participant in the forum, concurred with Minister Brantley’s position on equitable access to the vaccine for the region.
“I completely agree with you. I have assumed the challenge you have put on us and I think we should work very hard in relation to this matter. Most of us agree that the COVID-19 vaccine should be distributed fairly worldwide because we believe in the principle of fairness,” Almagro said.
“The global pandemic requires a response based on unity, solidarity and multi-lateral cooperation to ensure that all states have access to vaccines.”