Bridgetown, Barbados, 7 April 2021 (PAHO/WHO) - Saint Lucia today received 24,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a global effort between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The arrival marks a historic step toward ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, in the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. This delivery is part of the first phase of deliveries for Saint Lucia, and more vaccines are expected to arrive successively during 2021. According to the first round of COVAX allocations, Saint Lucia is expected to continue receiving doses through May until it reaches 74,400, the amount specified by COVAX.
PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which is responsible for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the countries of the Americas under the COVAX Mechanism, sent 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by SK Bioscience of South Korea. The vaccines arrived today at the Hewanorra International Airport.
"Seeing this arrival is very reassuring and it means that more people will be able to be protected from COVID-19," said Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries. "We will continue to work with the country to support vaccination along with the entire package of known public health and social measures that we know can help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and save lives."
The arrival of these first vaccines will serve to protect priority groups and those most at risk, such as health workers and older adults. Saint Lucia is one of ten countries in the Americas that are receiving vaccines at no cost through the COVAX Mechanism's Advance market commitment (AMC).
The Hon. Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia said, “Today is a very important day but it is one step in very long journey. A journey that back in February or March of last year nobody knew where this journey was going to take us. COVAX came out of a humanitarian understanding that when we have these kinds of crises where there is going to be global demand on a very small number of products that sadly human nature takes over and persons are intent on putting each of their countries first. COVAX understands that we all live in a village, you can protect yourself but if you do not take care of your neighbors ultimately it will come back and haunt you.”
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Saint Lucia, the country has recorded 4,312 cases and 63 deaths as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“The UN welcomes the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to Saint Lucia, under the COVAX facility, since it brings countries one step closer to fully protecting their most vulnerable. We have learned the hard way that this virus has no borders, and our goal is to leave no country behind through universal access to vaccines. The only way that we can save lives, and ultimately end this crisis, is by ensuring that all countries are able to offer vaccinations to their whole population. The COVAX mechanism is a tangible reflection of this goal, made possible thanks to the solidarity of the international community. We are truly grateful to our many partners for their support,” said UN Resident Coordinator, Didier Trebucq.
“The arrival of these vaccines provides a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, which has been battering essential services that secure the education and protection of our children. UNICEF will continue to support the communication campaign which seeks to drive adult vaccination as an important step towards controlling the pandemic, so that we can begin to reimagine a better, safer and healthier future for everyone, especially children, young people and their families,” said UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area, Dr Aloys Kamuragiye
COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20% of the population of each participating country during 2021. In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 and 2.6% of their population. The only exceptions are small island developing States, which will receive an allocation of vaccines to cover between 16 and 20% of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small quantities of vaccines.
Until vaccination is widespread among the population, basic public health measures remain the basis of the pandemic response. For public health authorities, this means continuing to conduct screening, contact tracing, isolation, assisted quarantine, and quality care. And for people, it means continuing to practice physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of masks, adequate ventilation of indoor environments, and avoidance of crowded spaces.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. In the Americas, the PAHO Revolving Fund is the recognized procurement agent for the COVAX facility.