The Caribbean Initiative applauds the US vaccine donation to CARICOM

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced that it will donate 5.5 million COVID-19 vaccines to member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The vaccines will go a long way to supporting the health of Caribbean populations and accelerating post-pandemic recovery. The Caribbean Initiative congratulates the Biden-Harris administration on this donation and recognizes the tireless work of Caribbean leaders, diplomatic representatives in Washington DC, and regional organizations, including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the CARICOM Secretariat, that led this effort. Helping to advance such US-Caribbean cooperation is central to the mission of the Caribbean Initiative.

We are pleased to have played a role in support of both the US and CARICOM governments. At a February 2021 #ACFrontPage event, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, in his capacity as Chair of CARICOM, issued a widely covered call to action regarding the importance of equitable vaccine distribution to the Caribbean. As House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks commented at the same event, “these relationships…are built upon mutual respect, understanding, and friendship.” This week’s vaccine donation put this sentiment into practice and strengthens the US-Caribbean relationship immeasurably.

To provide momentum to Chairman Meeks’ call to action, the Caribbean Initiative set out to work with stakeholders from the Caribbean and the US to advance thinking on the importance of vaccines to the Caribbean, through numerous public events and private roundtables with government representatives, members of the private sector, civil society, and regional organizations. These events and insights from stakeholders informed a Caribbean Initiative policy brief, The Strategic Importance of Sending US Vaccines to the Caribbean (June 2021), which emphasized how substantial US vaccine donation to the Caribbean could help economies to re-open safely, as well as further US geopolitical interests, reactivate US-bound tourism, and strengthen partnerships with neighbors.

The brief recommended that the United States donate to the English-speaking Caribbean and Suriname, 4 million vaccines through CARPHA, ultra-cold temperature vaccine freezers, and additional COVID-19 supplies – all recommendations that came to fruition with last week’s announcement. The Caribbean Initiative sees this donation as a great example of the benefits of the US-Caribbean partnership and it augurs well for future cooperation leading into the post-COVID world. We will continue to work with US and Caribbean partners to build momentum and address the corresponding opportunities for economic reactivation.

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