By R.D. Miller
I am over here, 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, the vaccine distribution for normalcy remains inequitable despite what experts recommend.
These biotech companies are leaders with immense resources for research and development and manufacturing capabilities that have produced hundreds of millions of doses, but how do you balance profit, shareholders wealth, and charity, and humanity for the poor?
Simply put, poor and developing impoverished and countries do not possess the economic power, population size to leverage, or have a seat at the negotiation table like Canada, US Australia, UK, Brazil, and other industrialized nations.
The inoculation for many Latin America, the Caribbean, and African nations; decades of disparities and social disadvantage in medicine and other systematic issues will not be erased overnight.
Sadly, this much-needed vaccine arrival will be slow or extremely late. The only hope for several regions may be through the World Health Organization, the United Nations, or NGOs, and the private sector like previously donated PPE’s, and ventilators.
Help may be closer than you can imagine if you 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 because of how few other nations would see them. Therefore, opted to stay out for now balancing infection rates, death, image, politics, and diplomacy.
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.
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.
After the coronavirus had overloaded many medical systems, Cuba deployed doctors worldwide.
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 US and China, and India for their vaccine supplies, I believe patriotism will turn into the focus before opening the barrel to go elsewhere. But experts argued that no will be immune unless all are vaccinated regardless of location.
Stinging the hand that nourished you
Late last year, 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. Maybe 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, one argued.
The marriage, especially between Jamaica and Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America, is complicated. 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.
Sure, for few Caribbean leaders, it is alluring to show a nation’s brava attitude, but when citizens are dying in an economy that will develop more symptoms, a delicate alliance outweigh political ideology.
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, corruption, brutal regimes, or urging smooth transfer of power. But beneath these public outcries, many recognize areas of strategic categories, to maintain diplomatic economic transactions as usual from quantitative analysis regarding what that nation has to offer.
A recent report has shown the Republic of Turkey agrees with China, and Argentina and Mexico turned to Russia for supplies. Brazil Latin America’s largest nation who approved a reported 100 million doses made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca and China to undertake the country’s 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 infected people, even deaths.
COVID-19 does not discriminate regardless of race, sex, creed, colour, 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.
A history of tight rope decisions and delicate dance:
One example: On January 23, 2019, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s prime minister, 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. Human Rights organizations noted that Nicolas Maduro’s regime has been brutal against the opposition, killed and jailed political leaders.
In March 2020, reports noted that several Caribbean countries of The Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, and Jamaica joined other nations condemned Venezuela after meeting with several international leaders. Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey back Nicolas Maduro, several European countries backed 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.
Despite this system of government, and he should be held accountable; few scholars described that though 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 hopingly 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 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. Maybe some leaders who cut diplomatic were aware of the nation’s decline and formed other alliances for their sustainability.
A delicate of governance for delivery
The decisions to cut ties with other nations forced or not is complex for the Caribbean and Latin America nations. However, the economics of COVID-19 is not like trading sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackee, vegetables. It is the health of a nation to produce these things.
And though 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, but also balance uncertainty, and still be strategic in getting much-needed help.