KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, CMC – The worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines has ordered St Vincent and the Grenadines to pay US$70,000 for COVID-19 vaccines that it donated to Trinidad and Tobago in May.
Kingstown donated 5,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Port of Spain amid a spike in cases in the twin-island republic as the vaccines were at risk of expiring because of low uptake in St Vincent.
However, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on NBC Radio on Wednesday that the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) said his government should have returned the vaccines instead of giving them away.
“COVAX said to us what we gave to Trinidad, we should not have done so, we should have given them back and they 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,” he disclosed.
Gonsalves said that when his Trinidad counterpart, Dr. Keith Rowley, heard about the development, the government offered to pay for the vaccines.
“I said, ‘No. No. No. No. No. We gave you.’ So we have to organise — I believe the payment has been made already, the US$70,000 to COVAX because if we are getting now through the US, I don’t want to have any indebtedness to COVAX…,” Gonsalves said.
“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,” Gonsalves insisted.