Barbados ‘on global vaccine hunt’

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Barbados continues to be in talks with several countries to procure COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Mia Mottley confirmed on Tuesday.

In a national address, she said that not only has she been in talks with the Indian government to possibly purchase vaccines but with “many others”.

She said: “You have heard that I have been in deep conversations as you heard about the letter I have written to Prime Minister Modi from India, but I have also been in deep conversation from many others.

“Out there truly has been like the Wild Wild West – but the conversations with the Indian government have been promising.

“I say no more at this stage, but have every assurance that we will come back to you with details, as soon as we are in a position to give full and greater details on that and other sources from which we are seeking to procure it.”

But Mottley was also quick to declare that a vaccine may not block the virus but instead help prevent severe and potentially lethal disease.

Of the scores of vaccine candidates researched or in clinical trials, nine vaccines have been authorized by at least one national regulatory authority for public use so far.

The leading RNA vaccines are the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine.

Other vaccines have been approved by China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, India’s Bharat Bio, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, Oxford–AstraZeneca in the UK and the Johnson & Johnson Janssen in the US.

Other vaccines are being researched in Cuba, Brazil and Iran.

But South Africa’s leader echoed the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in charging that developed countries are hoarding coronavirus vaccines at the expense of poorer nations.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged rich nations to release any excess doses “so that other countries can have them.”

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines,” he said. “Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs.

“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not vaccinating.

“We all must act together in combating the virus.”

A new study warned that unequal access to the doses could cost the global economy trillions of dollars.

The WHO is leading a global risk-sharing procurement initiative, the Covax Facility.

Covax’s goal is to pool enough vaccine buying power to obtain nearly 2 billion doses to protect more than 20 per cent of populations by the end of 2021. Ninety-two developing economies, including Barbados, are being supported by the financing mechanism in Covax. (SB)

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