Covid19 vaccine availability – a call to action

In this photo taken on May 6, a sign announces that there are no more covid19 vaccines available at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain, which had previously been used as a vaccination centre. - Jeff K. Mayers
In this photo taken on May 6, a sign announces that there are no more covid19 vaccines available at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain, which had previously been used as a vaccination centre. - Jeff K. Mayers

The TT Chamber of Commerce recently collaborated with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Caribbean Chambers of Commerce (Caricham) and the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), to host the Regional Action Network outreach initiative titled, Call to Action: The ICC Campaign to end the pandemic in the Caribbean. The free virtual event brought together relevant stakeholders for discussions on how the private sector can contribute towards ending the spread of covid19 and safely reopening the economy. By pushing for the equitable distribution of vaccines, addressing vaccine hesitancy and increasing investment in the public health system we stand a better chance of overcoming the crisis.

The ICC’s secretary general John Denton, AO, articulated that the purpose of the organisation is to grow the economy through enabling global trade and advancing sustainability. This has been hindered by the pandemic, prompting the ICC to be heavily involved in advocating for global policy proposals geared toward its safe and effective end. The ICC aims to achieve this through global influence, regional relevance and local impact. At the World Trade Organisation and the World Health Organisation, the ICC is pushing for the creation of a global clearing house that will enable worldwide cooperation to help boost the production and distribution of vaccines through proper supply chain management and match making services between countries.

The challenges involved in securing vaccines was made clear by the ICC’s global policy director and permanent representative to the United Nations. Vaccine nationalism is a prevalent issue as advanced countries hoard supplies of vaccines for their own citizens at the expense of supply to other nations. The ICC estimates that the cost of unequal vaccine access will be as high as USD$9 trillion in 2021.

To curb this, Damien Bruckard, ICC deputy director for trade and investment, indicated that the ICC advocates for the removal of export barriers and the need for increased funding of the Covax programme. Covax is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.

Maaike Arts, regional advisor for Unicef’s Latin America and the Caribbean regional office, let it be known that to date only 375,000 doses of vaccine were delivered to the Caribbean region through the Covax programme. She added that significant challenges also exist in the distribution process.

Director of health systems and services at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr James Fitzgerald, stated that the pandemic had disrupted many essential health services in the region, costing years of health gains in a matter of months. He advocated for an increase in public health funding.

On the topic of vaccine hesitancy, Dr Scott Ratzan, co-founder of the Convince Campaign, highlighted that it ranged from 62 per cent to 32 per cent among the adult populations of several Caribbean countries. The Convince Campaign aims to mobilise the business community to engage employers and employees to accept covid19 vaccines and assist in stopping the spread of the virus.

María Merchán Rocamora, a consultant working with the ICC, unveiled the ICC AOKpass. This is a cross-industry, multipurpose digital health certificate that can be used for cross border travel as well as in facilitating the safe reopening of domestic economies.

Deputy chairman of the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), PB Scott, insisted that it is absolutely essential that the private sector be part of the solution in getting the region vaccinated as quickly as possible and issued support to the initiatives, and the call to action, by the ICC.

Given the current escalation of cases and the danger this presents to our society, the Chamber reiterates the importance of a joint State/private sector collaboration for the post-pandemic recovery...the first step of which must be a strong programme of vaccination.

Content submitted by the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce


"Covid19 vaccine availability – a call to action"

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