Caribbean Community CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett has bemoaned the pace of vaccine acceptance in the Region, even as she said the process of accessing vaccines for Member States has been one of the most coordinated and harmonised efforts in the pandemic.
Briefing the regional media on 14 December, in the first Press Briefing since her assumption of the position of Secretary-General in August 2021, Dr. Barnett said the Community is focused on “acquiring sufficient vaccines to save lives and provide protection to allow the revival of economic activity.”
While she reiterated the concern that global vaccine supplies have been inequitable, she acknowledged the contributions of the Governments of India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, as well as the COVAX Facility and the African Medical Supplies Platform to the significant supplies of vaccines in the Community.
Heads of Government, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the CARICOM Secretariat, continue to work tirelessly to maintain an adequate supply of doses of vaccines. However, the Secretary-General said, “we have not been successful in persuading sufficient of our citizens to be vaccinated so as to reduce the rate and severity of infections and deaths, as well as the stress on our health systems and personnel.”
Since March 2020, when the COVID-19 virus was discovered in the Region, 1,952,985 people have been infected as at December 15, and 24,898 deaths have been recorded.
Responding to a question from the media on compulsory requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations applied by some government and citizens’ assertion that they have a right to choose not to be vaccinated, Secretary-General Barnet said “we have to be cognisant where rights and responsibility cross one another.”
Describing the discussion as an “energetic one,” she said while persons want to exercise the constitutional right not to be vaccinated, other members of the society wished to exert their right to be protected.
“Governments have a responsibility for an acceptable level of protection,” Secretary-General Barnett said, adding:
“…if you want to exercise the right not to be vaccinated, then you have to accepted the responsibility to be tested and that as you move around, you are not infected, so that other people who need to have their rights protected are not compromised.”
‘We have to be open to everyone being able to exercise their rights within reason,” the CARICOM Secretary-General stated.