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By Theresa Goodwin
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Local officials will be relying on the expertise and advice of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine the best suitable vaccine to combat the coronavirus, when one becomes available.

Already, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has set aside approximately $64,000 for the purchase of a vaccine which will be sourced through WHO’s COVAX initiative.

COVAX is a mechanism designed to guarantee fast and fair access to Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. It aims to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective and approved vaccines by the end of 2021.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas disclosed on Thursday that the Cabinet had approved a proposal from Health Minister Molwyn Joseph for the country to subscribe to COVAX.

“Part of the [plan] the minister asked the Cabinet to give consideration to, which was granted, was that Antigua and Barbuda should procure its vaccines, when they become available through the COVAX facility, and not through bilateral arrangements with other countries,” the minister said.

He later acknowledged that there are some concerns about several vaccines that are being developed by a number of countries worldwide.

“The COVAX facility is something that has been put together by the WHO to which Antigua, through PAHO, is a subscribing member. The Ministry has submitted to the Ministry of Legal Affairs an agreement which is to be signed by August 31,” Nicholas said.

He said that the amount set aside would ensure that Antigua and Barbuda has a sufficient supply to strengthen its defence against the virus.

COVAX currently has the world’s largest and most diverse Covid-19 vaccine portfolios. The global initiative is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

The WHO chief said recently that around 172 countries are engaged with COVAX.

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