Using European Union funds, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is assisting the Cayman Islands to pay for COVID-19 vaccines once they are rolled out.

A government spokesperson told the Cayman Compass Tuesday that CARPHA has transferred a down payment to the Pan-American Health Organization for the vaccines. Part of that down payment, to secure vaccines for countries in the region, includes US$81,840 on behalf of the Cayman Islands.

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“CARPHA, which is assisting member states, such as the Cayman Islands, with the down payment using a grant that CARPHA received from the European Union, has advised that the sum of US$81,840 was transferred to PAHO for the Cayman Islands. The down payment is expected to be transferred to Gavi, which represents the COVAX Facility, by PAHO on behalf of the Cayman Islands,” the spokesperson said.

She added that the Ministry of Health is awaiting a formal letter from PAHO confirming that the funds have been transferred.

CARPHA, with the EU funding, entered into an agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization to support member states’ participation in the COVAX Facility, through assistance with the required down payment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is the administrator of the COVAX Facility.

The facility, which launched in April this year, aims to manufacture 2 billion doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021, and to make those vaccines available equitably to all nations and jurisdictions, rich or poor.

“This virus continues to pose a public health threat to our region and there are currently no vaccines to protect against it,” said Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA’s executive director, at a press conference last week.

She said CARPHA signed a deal with the EU for an 8 million euro grant (US$9.46 million) in April 2020, which includes 3 million euros for the purchase of vaccines or treatments when they become available.

“The agreement with the European Union will ensure that our Caribbean people, especially the most vulnerable, receive and benefit from a safe, effective and approved COVID-19 vaccine,” St. John said.

On 31 Aug., the EU announced its support of COVAX, starting with 400 million euros in guarantees.

Cayman is among 12 CARPHA member states that have signed agreements with Gavi. The other member states are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. CARPHA is assisting seven jurisdictions, including Cayman, with all or a portion of the down payment.

St. John said the down payment is approximately 15% of the value of vaccines that countries intend to procure in the future.

Cayman Islands Health Minister Dwayne Seymour, speaking about the COVAX initiative in August, said “Each person is likely to require two doses of the vaccine. The approximate cost of each dose is $10.”

Under the agreement, PAHO will receive the funds from CARPHA for transfer to Gavi for the required down payments. When the vaccines are available, member states will purchase them through the PAHO Revolving Fund.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, PAHO director and regional director for the Americas of the World Health Organization, also speaking at the press conference on Thursday, said the COVAX Facility provides “the best opportunity for countries to fair and equitable access to a pool of candidate vaccines”.

“This will require the development and implementation of national plans that include strategic health promotion and communication strategies to ensure vaccine demand,” she added.

The EU funding is financing the down payment for more than 1 million doses of a successful vaccine for regional countries.

The COVAX Facility, which was launched in April, is co-led by Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization.

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