By Vishani Ragobeer
The uneven distribution of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines has been a global challenge and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has emphasised that job losses, an increased cost of living and other economic fallouts may persist unless the global inequalities are addressed.
President Ali raised these concerns in a message to the White House COVID-19 summit convened by US President Joseph Biden.
“Developing countries have been disadvantaged by the inequitable access and the unavailability of vaccines,” Dr. Ali said, later adding: “The uneven access to vaccination will hamper economic recovery.”
Already, he reminded other world leaders that developing countries have suffered from massive job losses, the closure of small businesses, reduction in economic growth and the endangerment of key sectors such as tourism.
According to a recent ECLAC report, in 2020, the Latin America and Caribbean region registered the largest economic downturn since 1900. This was due to the challenges including lockdowns and layoffs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECLAC report also noted that this was the worst economic performance of any developing region in the world.
Beyond this, President Ali drew attention to the fact that the disruption to global supply chains has resulted in increased import costs and thus the increase in the cost of goods. This global challenge did not spare Guyana and it prompted the government to reduce local freight charges to pre-pandemic levels.
Cognisant of these challenges, President Ali said: “I am mindful that global economic recovery will be uneven.
“… (and) unless the inequalities in the global economies are addressed and the problems of developing states are particularly in this process, the legacy of this pandemic will frustrate developing countries, recovery and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Dr. Ali’s contentions have been supported by reports published by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These international financial institutions posited that vaccination inequalities threaten countries’ recovery processes and could lead to longer-lasting economic implications.
Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday, President Biden announced that the United States would donate another 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to low and middle-income countries around this world. These vaccines will all be shipped by mid-2022.
Previously, the US committed to sharing 500 million doses of this vaccine to countries around the world. Already, the US has shipped about 160 million vaccine doses to 100 countries; Guyana has received 146,250 Pfizer vaccine doses which are being used to vaccinate children.
With this additional donation promised by President Biden, the total vaccine contribution from the US is expected to be about 1.1 billion doses.
Meanwhile, Biden also announced that the US was committing another US $370 million to support the administration of shots globally and the nearly US $380 million to GAVI (the Global Vaccine Alliance).
And, in the short term, he said that US $1.4 billion would be donated to support current efforts to reduce COVID-19 deaths. This is expected to be used towards the procurement of oxygen for critically ill patients who require ventilator support and generally, strengthening healthcare systems.
Importantly, too, the US President announced the launch of an EU-US vaccine partnership that would allow the European Union (EU) and the US to work more closely together on expanding global vaccination.
Speaking on this partnership, Biden said: “We should unite around the world on a few principles: that we commit to donation not selling doses to low and lower-income countries and that the donations come with no political strings attached…”