Rubio says US must move to prevent ‘malign actors’ from leading the vaccine effort in the region

As The Bahamas waits to find out if it will be among the countries gifted doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by the United States, US Senator Marco Rubio yesterday called on the US to prevent “malign actors” like China and Russia from leading the vaccination effort in the hemisphere.

“It’s important that the US stand ready to utilize all available tools to usher in an expedient end to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes evaluating ways to effectively support the global vaccination effort,” Rubio told The Nassau Guardian when asked if US President Joe Biden should give The Bahamas doses of the vaccine.

“To protect our nation’s security and our neighbors in the region, we must prevent malign actors – like Russia and 

China – from leading this effort in our hemisphere. We must move quickly on this urgent matter.”

The White House announced last month that the US will share 60 million doses of the vaccine with other countries.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic and international response yesterday.

Gayle E. Smith, the US Department of State’s coordinator for global COVID response and health security, and Jeremy Konyndyk, USAID’s executive director of the COVID-19 task force, testified during the hearing.

Senator Mitt Romney asked, “So, the decision that Senator [Tim] Kane raised about we need to provide additional support for Latin America, is that part of a document where we’ve laid out: this is how much we’re going to send to Latin America, this is how much is going to be going to India?”

Romney said it is apparent that China and Russia have a game plan.

“They’ve decided where they are going to send,” he said.

“I mean they’ve moved. They’ve acted. They’re getting various approvals that they want to receive. Do we have the same thing in place? Or are we still in the process of deciding what we’re going to do?”

Smith replied, “Let me try and answer that two ways. One way is we’ve done a great deal of that. We are still making decisions. We’ll finalize a decision on the AZ (AstraZeneca) doses soon and those will be prioritized. We will be able to see where those are going.

“We’ve got a similar discussion ongoing with COVAX, so that we do have some influence on where the doses go.”

Last month, Minister of Health Renward Wells said he did not see any reason why The Bahamas would not be among the countries to receive donated doses from the US.

To date, The Bahamas received 87,200 doses of the vaccine – 20,000 of which were donated by the Indian government in March.

The remaining doses were secured through the COVAX Facility. The Pan American Health Organization said The Bahamas should receive another 33,600 doses, through COVAX, by early June.

More than 36,000 doses of AstraZeneca have already been administered in The Bahamas.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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