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April 28, 2021

Government announces new sources of vaccines as Senate approves loan motion

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Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2021. 11:21 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize is borrowing US$5 million (BZ$10 million) from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to support a program to contribute to the reduction of the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 and mitigate indirect impacts, particularly to buy the remaining 238,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility and investment in the national COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan.

The IDB will directly loan US$2.86 million and provide a sovereign guarantee to Government for the remaining US$2.137 million.

NGO Senator Osmany Salas emphasized the importance of communication as there is vaccine hesitancy in his community and elsewhere; as a supporter of vaccination, he points out that the technology surrounding the vaccine has been long established and supported, even as the vaccines themselves are new. He himself has been vaccinated, he confirmed, and has been encouraging his staff to be as well.

Following questions about how far the jabs will go (as pointed out by Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte, a two-dose vaccine reduces the number of doses by half) and whether we have continued to seek out our fellows for assistance in this regard, Senator Eamon Courtenay, leader of Government Business, rose to take the opportunity to salute frontline workers for their “sterling work,” noting that none of his fellow Senators did so.

The Government’s policies leading to that turnaround also need to be recognized, said Courtenay. More than 40,000 have been vaccinated since March 1, an “excellent record,” but not good enough, especially with vaccine hesitancy. Cases were down to low double digits but have rebounded in the last few weeks.

The COVAX jabs are three vaccines per jab, resulting in more than 716 thousand vaccines available.

As for regional and international action, Belize joins its fellows in decrying “vaccine nationalism” among larger nations. “We have made our case – we have made it very clear last week to Secretary [of State Anthony] Blinken of the United States of America; we have made it very clear to Foreign Minister [Marc] Garneau of Canada; we have made it very clear to Lord Ahmad of the United Kingdom; we have made it very clear, Madam Speaker, in the CARICOM resolution at the Intersessional [Meeting] held in February of this year when under the leadership of [Trinidad and Tobago] Prime Minister [Keith] Rowley, we called on the United Nations and the WHO to have a world summit on the question of fair and equitable distribution of vaccines,” said Courtenay, who called this “the cry of the developing world.”

Belize accepted donations of vaccines from Barbados through India and from India itself, though the second doses are interrupted by India’s current internal crisis; has a pledge from the United Arab Emirates of 30 thousand doses of the Sinopharm Mainland Chinese vaccine which 10 thousand of have come and are awaiting WHO approval for distribution. 

Old friends Cuba and Taiwan have also made pledges to donate their versions of vaccines once tests are completed.

But the loan is not just to cover vaccine distribution and deployment. According to Courtenay, the funds will help secure national health and wellness, a fulfilling of the missed opportunity by the previous administration.

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