NAPARIMA MP Rodney Charles on Monday called on Government to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is "first in line" to access some of the 80 million covid19 vaccine doses that the US will export in the next six weeks.
Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said Government is already working aggressively on all levels to access some of these vaccines, the export of which US President Joe Biden announced in a tweet.
Biden said, "America will never be fully safe while this pandemic is raging globally. That's why today, I am announcing that over the next six weeks, we will send 80 million vaccine doses overseas.
"It is the smart thing to do. It is the strong thing to do."
In a news conference at the White House on Monday, Biden said the donation would include 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines that would be added to a previously announced donation of 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines. The AstraZeneca vaccines would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US before they can be donated. That approval has not yet been granted and the length of the approval process has not yet been established.
In a statement, Charles said, "Now is not the time to prevaricate or play powerful stupid or wonder whether it will be perceived as begging.
"Now is the time for cold, hard, clinically focused action to deal with this covid pandemic."
Charles suggested follow-up action by TT's ambassador in the US, a formal diplomatic note to the US Embassy in Port of Spain and the use of the DC lobbyist group as means for TT to access covid19 vaccines for the population.
"What we need is...a results-driven approach that leads to vaccines being made available to our country and US investments post-covid to assist our economic recovery efforts."
Browne told Newsday, "This latest announcement by the President of the United States of America goes well beyond the previous covid19 vaccines commitment that was made by the USA to the global community.
"President Biden made it very clear today that his nation intends to be the global leader in actively ensuring improved vaccine access to other countries during this phase of the pandemic, and that is excellent news for the developing world, for Caricom, and for TT."
Browne said Government has "strongly and consistently" used all available communication and diplomatic channels to press home the Prime Minister's international advocacy to access covid19 vaccines for TT and Caricom.
Dr Rowley is the current Caricom chairman.
Browne said TT's embassy team in Washington, DC, "has been fully mobilised in working with a range of advocates at all levels as the White House finalises the details of exactly how and when these vaccines will be distributed."
Browne also said Government continues its "excellent communication and collaboration" with the US Embassy in Port of Spain on acquiring vaccines: "I have already fully discussed the new vaccine possibilities with Mr Shante Moore who currently heads their Embassy team."
In a March 19 letter to Biden, Rowley noted the US had shared the surplus of its AstraZeneca vaccines with Mexico and Canada. He said."I believe it would be a tangible show of support for Caricom in confronting the severe economic and social challenges facing our people, if you were to share a quantity of vaccines with the (Caribbean) Community, as neighbouring countries on the US' Third Border with strong, travel, commercial and familial linkages."
In signed letter on April 1, Biden told Rowley, the US is committed to working with TT and Caricom "to advance our numerous shared interests, including defeating the covid19 pandemic." He added, "As leaders, we are united by a shared responsibility to make the Caribbean safer, healthier and more prosperous for future generations.
While his first priority is to get the American people vaccinated, Biden promised, "I want to be clear that we will share vaccines, including through Covax, when we are able."
He agreed with Rowley that "no one is safe until everyone is safe."
In April, after Biden spoke of exporting vaccines and it was hoped some would be available to TT, it was reported that a batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been contaminated by Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a plant in Baltimore, dashing TT's hopes of obtaining any.
Rowley said then, "We had anticipated that if 60 million units were to be distributed, we would have been there somewhere down the line, and we still expect to be there whenever, but if that scientific piece of information is confirmed, then it is not good news for us.”