Commonwealth urges action to vaccinate small states

The Commonwealth on Thursday called for Covid vaccine rollouts to be speeded up in small states, warning of the economic fallout from the virus in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland told a press conference “much more has to be done” to protect vulnerable small states from the coronavirus, adding that it was “in all of our interests”.

“Each of us can choose to do something to help and I’m so proud of all those countries in our Commonwealth, who are showing leadership,” Scotland said referring to more economically advanced members such as Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

“Although I celebrate that, I think we can do better and we have to, if we need to save lives,” she added.

The Commonwealth, which is made up mainly of former British colonies comprising 54 countries and 2.4 billion people, includes dozens of small states in remote regions.

By vaccinating the relatively small populations of 20 million people scattered across 32 of the smaller Commonwealth nations, the economic outlook for the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions could be transformed, Scotland said.

The United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) have put pressure on the world’s richest countries to share Covid vaccine supplies with more vulnerable nations.

Earlier this month at the UK-hosted G7 summit, the leaders of the world’s major economies pledged to donate one billion vaccines to poorer countries.

Critics of the summit in Cornwall in southwest England highlighted that the amount fell far short of the 11 billion vaccine doses called for by the WHO to end the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross called for faster vaccine rollouts in vulnerable Pacific islands as a surge in Covid cases threatened to overwhelm Fiji’s healthcare system.

The Commonwealth is urging the international community to overhaul financing for development, which it says is ill-suited to deal with modern crises like Covid and climate change.

It wants the UN to move from using GDP to allocate funding towards a Universal Vulnerability Index, which takes into account nations’ exposure to climate change, natural disasters, economic shocks, and their governance.