BY R.D MILLER
Facing the reality for a quick shot in the arm.
COVID-19 has affected every person unsympathetically and in profound ways and though several vaccines being developed globally by companies like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna. However, distribution for normalcy remains inequitable despite what experts recommend to save millions of lives.
These biotech companies are leaders with immense resources for R&D and manufacturing capabilities that have produced hundreds of millions of doses, but how do you balance profit, shareholders wealth, charity, and humanity for the poor?
Simply put, poor, developing and impoverished countries do not possess the economic power, population size to leverage, or have a seat at the negotiation table like Canada, U.S. Australia, U.K. Brazil, and other industrialized nations.
The coronavirus data has shown from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) kill more impoverished people; [ black and brown], and they are less likely to receive the vaccine.
The inoculation for many Latin America, the Caribbean, and African nations; decades of disparities, distrust in the vaccine, social disadvantage, and inequality in healthcare institutions and other systematic issues will not be erased overnight.
Sadly, this much-needed vaccine arrival will be slow or extremely late, but will have a positive impact. The only hope for several regions may be through the World Health Organization, the UNICEF, COVAX, or NGOs, procurement and distribution like previously donated PPE’s, and ventilators.
Further, many hope that when they arrive in these communities, these critical vaccines do not become for sale, get lost in politics, distribution and create additional barriers for the downtrodden.
Help may be closer than the Caribbean imagining if they can tango.
Beneath the strategic big biotech power, medical experts noted Cuba has four vaccines, one of which is now going through phase-three trials. However, many leaders of these poor and developing regions are standing on the sideline. It is more about how few other nations would regard them. Therefore, opted to stay out for now balancing infection rates, deaths, global image, politics, and diplomacy.
Because of Cuba’s regime, and less global economic power, its excellent work in the medical field has often overshadowed. And often get caught up in the geopolitical package. This is not to minimize Cuba’s Communist system or calling for its vaccine. However, Cuba occupies one of the highest ratios of physicians per capita in the world, according to the United Nations.
Reports showed that Jamaica for example welcomed 137 Cuban doctors in March 2020 and besides over 250 already practicing there. While some Caribbean islands have had their sights set on places like the U.S. and China, Russia and India for their vaccine supplies, I believe nationalism will turn into the focus before opening the barrel to go elsewhere.
Furthermore, other reports have shown that many rich countries have bought enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations three times over.
Medical professionals noted that China has about four vaccines near the approval stage. India has two vaccines that are at the concluding stages of approval.
Stinging the hand that nourished you
Late last year, local reports noted that the Jamaican government announced it was uninterested in Cuba for supplies of the COVID-19 and that they did not identify any reason to engage Cuban as a choice for Jamaicans.
Many argued the choice was beyond a shot in the arm, and that may come back haunting the community that is in need. “And it was a political decision to minimize Cuba’s support for Jamaica for decades trying to erase history.”
A few months later, the Ministry of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, reversed that stance according to local reports. Another person argued.“the administration recognized who was their genuine friend inside the geopolitical battle over COVID-19 vaccinations and had to walk it back to reality, but it was a welcomed decision.”
The marriage especially between Jamaica and Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America, is complicated, but they stick together through difficult times, remain faithful to one another and resolve problems.
It is a socio-economic and cultural umbilical cord from the days of slavery. However, today it depends on what political party is in power, this cord can be stretched thin or cut off.
After the Coronavirus had overloaded many medical systems, Cuba deployed doctors worldwide. Though the debate continues, who benefits whether doctors or the government of Cuba, reports also have shown for a nation of about 11 million people, over 40 countries benefited from their doctor deployment.
And given the reported long-term effect for those who survived this virus, these doctor’s services will remain vital.
Very often on Caribbean shores, it is alluring to show a nation’s bravado attitude, but when citizens are dying in an economy that will develop more symptoms, a delicate alliance outweigh political ideology. Sure, elected leaders must work with local doctors, follow the science-to ensure that all vaccines are tested, approved, and safe.
Let’s be COVID-19 friends even for today.
Many leaders recognize some nations present a tremendous global threat to humanity. They have grave human rights violations, corrupted with some brutal regimes. But beneath these public outcries, many recognize areas of strategic categories, and maintain business transactions as usual from quantitative analysis regarding what a nation has to offer.
A recent report has shown the Republic of Turkey agrees with China, and Argentina turned to Russia for supplies. Brazil Latin America’s largest nation who approved a reported 100 milling doses made by Sinovac and China to undertake immunization.
The Caribbean should come together as one body to exercise collective power to decide what pharmaceutical company best suits these island needs to fight this pandemic. It starts with reporting the accurate number of deaths from the disease, infections, testing, and tracing.
COVID-19 does not discriminate regardless of race, sex, creed, color, socio-economic status, or political system, or location. If one island suffers from an acute fever leading to a stroke, it will wash onto other shores.
All medical packages, regardless of location if analyzed, proved to be safe and can change course should be considered. Going alone or playing chess may be an excellent idea, but power is in numbers.
It seems these impoverished and developing countries’ altar calls failed to realize that the industrialized Jesus they have prayed to deliver is busy looking out for some who are closer to their pulpit.
A history of tight rope decisions and delicate diplomacy.
Often diplomacy is transactional, and though some leaders frequently intervene, confront and condemn other nations’ issues from a moral standpoint especially, human rights violations, urging the free transfer of power, and other atrocities committed by ruthless leaders. However, there is a thin line some follow for critical economic, long-term profits.
It is a quantitative analysis as noted above and calculation regarding multilateral alliance to make sure that, despite an open condemnation; beneath the surface; upward mobility for their people is uninterrupted from what the nation may have to offer.
One example: Nocolas Maduro, prime minister of Venezuela on January 23, 2019, Nicolas after a violently fraught election that filled with questions according to reports. Maduro said he was the recognized president, while others recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president and the head of parliament after the country’s election.
The election divided the country into a downward spiral economically, and criminally with a high death toll. Human Rights organizations noted that Nicolas Maduro’s regime has been brutal against opposition and several human rights violations, killings, and jailed political leaders.
In March 2020, reports noted that several Caribbean countries like the Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and St Lucia, and Jamaica and other nations united and condemned Venezuela after meeting with several international leaders. Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey back Nicolas Maduro, several European countries back Guido.
The condemnation of Maduro may affect tourism and other businesses, but the moral compass often meets head-on with reality to choose, forced or not.
Though Maduro’s system of government should be held accountable for the reported atrocities; few scholars described many Latin American countries condemned Maduro’s actions. But they stop shy of cutting diplomatic connections, despite what they believe, may have influenced them to join for only a promise of an economic package.
In contrast, the Jamaican Gleaner reported, a former member of the opposition party, Lisa Hanna asked the local government should reconsider its proposal to close its Embassy in Venezuela stemming from the political turmoil.
Sure, personal safety is paramount, and new leaders may have taken on a different approach where the appetite or access to cheap oil cannot replace humanity, but every so often to correct a friend’s leadership, one may need to engage hoping for a change of direction.
Under former President Hugo Chávez, as many consider his socialist ideology, provides fuel for neighboring countries to support impoverished and developing countries.
Venezuela was once one of the world’s dominant oil countries and has been supplying crude oil to the Caribbean for decades. PetroCaribe, the regional oil cooperative Venezuela created in 2005. PetroCaribe supplies about 14 out of 16 from the (Caribbean Group of the African, Caribbean, and the Pacific States) according to reports.
However, recent reports noted that production has diminished. Now Venezuelans have seen a tremendous increase in oil price and waiting for several hours to purchase fuel and an ever-widening gap between the have and the have-nots.
Many experts attributed it to years of mismanagement, corruption; including sanctions that have crippled the local economy. There is also what some consider two sides to these decisions. It is possible some leaders who sever diplomatic ties were aware of the nation’s decline and formed other alliances for their sustainability.
A delicate of dance for delivery.
These decisions to sever ties with other nations forced or not is complex for the Caribbean, African and Latin America nations. However, the economics of COVID-19 is not like trading sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, bauxite, precious metal, yams, ackee, or other vegetables. It is the health of a nation to produce these things.
These elected leaders possess the right to decide from where to get the COVID-19 vaccine to other trade agreements. They constantly must walk carefully but often have a bad toe keeping up with powerful world leaders.
Regardless of where the vaccine comes from, leaders should condemn human rights violations, reject rogue regimes, violence but also balance uncertainty, and still be strategic in getting much-needed help.