Smad” is how the Prime Minister is describing the demand by the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility that St Vincent and the Grenadines should pay US$70,000 for the 5,000 vaccine doses it donated to Trinidad and Tobago in May.
A CANA report said St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday said Covax told his government it should have returned the vaccines that were not being used.
“Covax said to us what we gave to Trinidad, we should not have done so, we should have given them back, and (Covax) would give whoever they want. I think they had somewhere else they wanted to give them – not in the Caribbean.
“We gave them to Trinidad, so we will have to pay for those. It’s about US$70,000. I believe the payment has been made already, because if we are getting now through the US, I don’t want to have any indebtedness to Covax.”
Gonsalves said when Dr Rowley heard about the development, the government offered to pay for the vaccines, but Gonsalves refused.
“I said, ‘No, no, no. no. no. We gave you.’ We are a people of solidarity. That’s how we function. Social solidarity, regionally, globally and nationally. Love thy neighbour as you love yourself.
“Trinidad has been very generous to us in many, many ways. I can’t give you that and ask you to pay for it. Absolutely not. That ain’t how we stop. We nah stop so.”
Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Rowley initially said he had not heard that report. He went on to say he was not surprised by the demand. He said it was raised at the time the vaccines were offered.
“That is bureaucracy gone mad. The option of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines was to have those vaccines expire and be dumped. We were in a position to make use of them, and it was against that background that the government of St Vincent took the decision that they prefer to have them utilised them in TT than to have them expire and be dumped.
“The bureaucrats at PAHO are saying, ‘It was our supply to you, and if you let anybody else to it, you’re going to have to pay for it.’
“Of course, they are blind to the fact that the vaccines in a pandemic were made to be utilised by people who wanted to use them. So I’m not surprised. Bureaucrats do things like that.”
Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne, in response to a WhatsApp message from Newsday, expressed his appreciation of the strong regional solidarity and camaraderie he said joined the leadership of the region.
“This focus on the common regional good has resulted in lives saved during an intense period of sharing of vaccines amongst our respective territories. This solidarity has seen the Caribbean Community through many natural disasters and it will be an important component of how history records our collective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The vaccines from SVG were available to be given away as there was very low uptake on the island owing to high vaccine hesitancy, despite numerous incentives being offered. (Newsday)