COVID-19 update and press conference – February 9, 2021. (PMO)

The donation of several batches of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the Government of India to Barbados and Dominica has been hailed as the start of the region’s fight back against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, emphasised this tonight as he joined his counterpart Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley in a Zoom press conference that saw them both expressing gratitude to the Government and People of India for the first ever donation of the vaccine to the region.

Addressing nationals of both countries, Prime Minister Skerrit said: “Guided by the results of the latest studies, this vaccine will reduce the likelihood of transmission to others; this means that Dominica as a country will soon be empowered to achieve a crucial objective, which is to further minimise and eventually stamp out the impact of the various strains of COVID-19. The vaccine will not be mandatory, but I would encourage all citizens to consider the danger of passing up such an opportunity as this to safeguard the health of yourself and your loved ones.

“I am happy that our brothers and sisters in Barbados have also succeeded in their efforts to procure that country’s own batch of the vaccine for the benefit of all Barbadians. Tonight signifies the start of the fight back by the Caribbean islands against the virus that has threatened the livelihood of every CARICOM national. The journey ahead may be a long one. But I am certain that once we stay focused and keep our guards up and protect ourselves with this vaccine, we will rise again in our beautiful Caribbean region.” 

In confessing that he did not imagine that the prayers of Dominica would have been answered so swiftly, Mr. Skerrit said: “Being the leader of a small Caribbean island, with a population of 72,000 people, I did not fancy my chances of getting such a swift positive response to my request of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One would have thought and understood that a global pandemic, such as this, a nation’s size and might would have been the primary considerations. But it is to the credit of Prime Minister Modi, that our request was considered on merit, and the quality of our people was recognized.”

Mr. Skerritt’s joint expression of heartfelt appreciation with Prime Minister Mottley to Prime Minister Modi, his Government and the citizens of India, also saw him recognising the part played by scientists and those responsible for the “tireless research and trials that went into manufacturing this formula for resistance”.

Also heaping praise on Barbados’ Prime Minister for ensuring Barbadians receive the vaccines, the Dominican leader noted the batches of the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine would be securely stored and, like Barbados, his country would soon be advancing its public awareness campaign and rolling out its vaccination exercise this month.

Stating that this would start on February 22, he outlined the first to receive vaccines would be frontline workers, senior citizens who are at risk and members of Cabinet and Parliament.

The joint press conference also revealed that Dominica would be sharing some of its batches of the vaccine with others in the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), while Barbados would be extending some of its own to Trinidad and Guyana.

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