Sat | Jun 19, 2021

Gov’t will only use WHO-approved vaccines – PM

Published:Thursday | June 10, 2021 | 12:09 AM


The St Kitts-Nevis government says it has no intention of importing vaccines not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat the COVID-19 pandemic in the twin-island federation.

Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris said that his administration is committed to ensuring the highest level of safety and protection for all citizens and residents in the use of COVID-19 vaccines, and as such it will only consent to the use of vaccines that have been granted approval for emergency use by the WHO.

Some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, although they are part of the COVAX initiative being administered by the WHO, have nonetheless made bilateral arrangements to acquire vaccines in order to conduct vaccination programmes aimed at curbing the spread of the vaccine and moving towards fully reopening their economies.

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator, which was launched in April by the WHO, the European Commission and France in response to the pandemic. It brings together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

“We have a vaccine that is used by a majority of countries around the world. The best vaccine is the one that you have, and we have one that has been tested and is widely used. When we made the judgement call, we were advised that it was best suited for our region,” Harris told radio listeners as he responded to questions on the pandemic.

He said that his coalition administration is guided by science and relies on information provided by reputable entities such as the WHO that has been at the forefront in the fight against the deadly virus.

Harris told listeners that he has also been made aware of instances whereby a small group of “irresponsible citizens” were encouraging persons to await the arrival of vaccines developed in Cuba. But he said that the Cuban vaccines are yet to be given the green light by the WHO.

The prime minister read out a letter he received from the Embassy of Cuba dated June 8 that stated in part, “regarding the request for information about the development of Cuban COVID-19 vaccines by the Honourable Prime Minister Timothy Harris, Cuba has five COVID-19 vaccine candidates still awaiting approval”.

“So, you should ask yourselves, why should a doctor who knows better encourage persons to look for something that, in reality, is not available to them. We have established, as a policy for the protection of people in St Kitts and Nevis, that any vaccine we use here must have the approval of the World Health Organization, which is the premier body dealing with public health,” Harris said, without identifying the “doctor”.