IT SEEMS clear from statements made by the Prime Minister and his Barbadian counterpart Mia Mottley this week that there remains a lot of room for co-operation between Caricom states on the vexed issue of acquiring covid19 vaccines.
Why is Caricom not working as a bloc on this matter? Why are small, economically vulnerable countries not coming together to boost collective bargaining power?
Statements on Wednesday by Dr Rowley suggested this country and other Caricom countries remain intent on pursuing their own individual efforts at procuring jabs, despite the fact that those efforts have largely been in vain.
Speaking on the Now Morning show on TTT, the Prime Minister said this country had been a victim of its own initial success in managing the pandemic, because that meant we were not seen as a priority when the time came to begin vaccine distribution.
Dr Rowley further noted the problem of hoarding and said the Government had been approaching individual producers. He said none of his Caricom colleagues has been able to go into the marketplace and buy a single vaccine, because it is not available.
This account paints a familiar picture of a country working on its own to obtain covid19 vaccines, while our neighbours do the same.
The question is why. Why has this approach – with separate entreaties made by separate, tiny countries – remained the dominant mode of response in the face of its manifest failure?
Confirmation that it’s every man for himself came in the form of a call, made separately, by Ms Mottley, also on Wednesday.
“We need a global summit for co-ordinated action with respect to how we treat with the covid19 pandemic,” the Barbadian Prime Minister said as her country received its second tranche of 33,600 vaccines from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Covax facility. She said that summit must address the equitable distribution of vaccines, among other things.
Her call duplicated a very similar appeal by Dr Rowley only a few months ago to global leaders at the WHO.
Ms Mottley’s plea definitely adds support to Dr Rowley’s position. But it also brings into focus the fact that we have heard little in terms of the response to the Prime Minister’s entreaty in the first place.
While different Caricom countries have different preferences in terms of which vaccines they deem safe, would it not have been ideal for all regional leaders to come together to make the same call for vaccine equity?
This week, Caricom gave us some cause for hope – fresh blood and possibly fresh thinking, in the election of its first female secretary-general, in the form of Dr Carla Barnett.
But the mystery remains: why the bloc has floundered so spectacularly over the vital issue of acquiring the covid19 vaccine.