Thank you, Your Excellency, it’s my honour to join you today.
Your Excellency Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Chairman of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Authority,
Your Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,
Good morning to you all, and thank you so much for the invitation to address you today.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge the success that many Caribbean states have had in protecting your populations from COVID-19. As a region you have performed better than other regions.
But I know that although you have not suffered large numbers of infections and deaths, you have suffered economically, particularly those states with large tourism industries.
As a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Health of my country, I fully appreciate the difficulty of trying to protect both the health of your people and the health of your economies.
We are at a critical juncture now.
For travel and tourism to resume safely, countries need to act jointly to manage risks, and to curb the potential for transmission of the virus through international travel.
Even as vaccines are being rolled out, we urge all countries to persist with the proven public health measures that have been the bedrock of the response so far.
I well understand that vaccines are a source of great hope for you as they are for people all over the world – to protect your populations, and to get your economies back on their feet.
At the beginning of the year I said that unless the international community worked together for vaccine equity, the world was facing a catastrophic moral failure.
We are urging vaccine-producing countries that vaccine equity is not an act of charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests.
Developments since then have done little to allay my fears.
More than 411 million doses of vaccine have been administered globally, but 76% of those doses are in just 10 countries.
I’m glad that some Caribbean states have received vaccines through donations and bilateral deals, but we also understand that this is not a sustainable model.
So far, only Jamaica has received vaccines through COVAX, and I acknowledge that we need to do more, better, faster.
One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX to help all countries end the pandemic. This means urgent action to ramp up production.
WHO and our COVAX partners are working to identify and address bottlenecks in production.
Just this morning I spoke to the CEO of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, about the shared challenges we face in ramping up production and distribution, and we’re engaging the Prime Minister of India and the Serum Institute of India.
WHO and our partners are also exploring other options including technology transfer and intellectual property waivers, and we seek your support for these efforts.
Let me finish by drawing your attention to two other issues that are important for the medium and long-term.
First, as you know, Member States are now in talks about a potential treaty for pandemic preparedness and response, and we seek the support of Caribbean states for this idea, which we view as a very important tool for strengthening global preparedness.
And second, we urge all Member States to invest in strengthening their health systems, built on primary health care as the foundation for universal health coverage. This is the best defense against future pandemics.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to meet with you today. I assure you that we in WHO and PAHO are doing everything we can to support each of your states to access vaccines as rapidly and equitably as possible, and to drive the global recovery.
I thank you.