KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — A senior European Commission official says the European Union is more than prepared to help developing countries including those in the Caribbean get access to vaccines so as to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Until the whole world is vaccinated, we are under threat of COVID,” said the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans.
“We cannot afford to let the developing world wait endlessly for vaccines, we have to take that responsibility, the European Union is more than prepared to do that. We will follow up on this and you will see also in the years to come that we will also put the money on the table that is necessary for that to happen,” Timmermans told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
Caribbean and developing countries have been critical of the policies of developed countries in relation to making the vaccines available to countries in a bid to curb the spread of the virus that has killed and infected millions of people since March last year.
Timmermans, who is heading a 10-member EU delegation to the Caribbean, told CMC that the half of all the vaccines produced in the European Union is exported and that through the COVAX system, “we have pledged to help vaccinate parts of the world that cannot have access easily to vaccines.
“And we will follow up on that pledge. So we will take our responsibility there, we have been relatively successful at home in vaccinating our population.”
COVAX aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, and guarantee fair and equitable access for every country.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and World Health Organization (WHO) with UNICEF as a key delivery partner and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) as the procurement agent in the Americas.
Timmermans said that the EU would also be prepared to help Caribbean countries struggling with deeply entrenched vaccine hesitancy.
“The only thing we can do is show what we’re doing (and) hope that we can lead by example. Show that in countries with high levels of vaccination, when you go over 70%, the cases diminish, hospitalisations diminish very rapidly.
“And people who were vaccinated might become ill, but they will never ever have to be on a ventilator again, which would be a huge relief for our health systems that are overburdened and mainly overburdened by people who are not vaccinated.
“So you know, my message is get a vaccine. If you don’t, and you ended up in hospital, it’s too late. And if you’re hesitant to do that, and you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones, you bring your loved ones in peril if you’re not vaccinated, you can affect other people,” the EU official said.
Timmermans told CMC that he continues to remained puzzled at the hesitancy to take the COVID-19 vaccine, when in the past “humanity was able to eradicate polio, and other illnesses through vaccination and there’s not a parent on earth that will not vaccinate their children for polio and other diseases that humanity faced before.
“So why does hesitation now that we are faced with another pandemic and we have the medication that will help us stay healthy, and I certainly hope that we can, by showing that there are no risks, by showing that this society recovers quicker if the levels of vaccination are very high, by showing that we can convince people who are hesitant,” Timmermans told the CMC.