Prime Minister Harris calls for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, April 8, 2021 (MMS-SKN) – With just less than five per cent of the total world population having received the Covid-19 vaccine, and the fact that 76% of all Covid-19 vaccines manufactured have been purchased by nine of the wealthiest countries in the world, Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris is making a passionate appeal for an equitable distribution of the vaccines.

“In my capacity as Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and in my role as CARICOM Lead Head for Human Resources, Health and HIV, I want again to call on the wealthier nations to do more to assist developing countries,” said Prime Minister Harris on Wednesday, April 7 during a media briefing at the RLB International Airport, after the country received 21,600 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines courtesy of the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

The Honourable Prime Minister reiterated an earlier call he had made to the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as the European Union – to do more to make vaccines available to small vulnerable nations and to those in need.

“As we speak, not every jurisdiction has vaccines available to them,” noted Dr Harris. “Indeed in over 193 jurisdictions recognised by the United Nations and up to the last count, only about 150 plus had any quantity of vaccine available. So we see already that we do not have equitable access and that is something that we need to correct.”

However looking at the home situation, Prime Minister Harris announced that with the receipt of the 21,600 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, which were delivered by an RSS aircraft that had touched down from St. Lucia, it brought the number of Federation’s doses to 41,600.

“The vaccine that we are using is a two-dose regiment that is required, and so if we do the computation it means that our supplies so far can allow us to vaccinate 20,800 persons here in St. Kitts and Nevis,” observed Dr Harris. “We have set ourselves the target of just over 33,000 persons to achieve herd immunity. This means that we are at 62% of our target group covered by the combination of doses that we have had so far.”

Saying that the AstraZeneca vaccine remains the vaccine of choice within the Caribbean region, the Prime Minister pointed out that St. Kitts and Nevis is thankful as it had engaged in the COVAX Facility very early, and he pointed out: “This is really significant and it means if we work hard, St. Kitts and Nevis can really become the first nation-state to achieve herd immunity.”

With more vaccines now available in the country, the Honourable Prime Minister made a further call on all the citizens and residents in St Kitts and Nevis to play their part and get vaccinated, as this is their chance to step up and join the global fight against Covid-19.

“Our health professionals are encouraged by the numbers of people coming forward to get vaccinated in the short period of time since we rolled out our programme on the 22nd of February 2021, just some seven weeks ago,” noted Dr Harris. “As of yesterday (Tuesday, April 6) our figures show that 9,774 citizens and residents have now received their first dose. We have then, inoculated about 30 per cent of our target population of 33,236.”

The press briefing which was moderated by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Delores Stapleton-Harris, was also addressed by the Minister of Health the Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett who observed the fact that the vaccines were received on World Health Day.

Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Country Representative, Ms Katrina Smith, also delivered remarks at the briefing that was also attended by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Hazel Laws, Medical Chief of Staff at the JNF General Hospital Dr Cameron Wilkinson, and President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Mrs Giselle Matthew, and other senior health officials.

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