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Statement of Commissioner Sola: Donating Surplus Vaccines to Caribbean & Central America Would Benefit American Industry & Security

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Sharing surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses with Caribbean and Central American nations will help protect vulnerable populations, promote U.S. diplomatic efforts, and help restart an important industry within the American travel and tourism service sector.

Those are the arguments made in a letter sent Tuesday to President Joseph Biden by Federal Maritime Commission Commissioner Louis E. Sola.  The correspondence was sent following an Administration announcement that the United States will share tens of millions of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with other nations.

Since April 2020, Commissioner Sola has served as the Fact Finding Officer responsible for determining the economic impact of the cessation of cruise activity on our Nation’s ports and port communities.  Over the past year, he has determined that tens of thousands of American workers have lost employment, cities and port authorities have lost millions of dollars in revenue, and countless enterprises that support the cruise industry have lost business.  A consistent theme in reports issued by Commissioner Sola is the economic imperative to American businesses and families of safely restarting the cruise industry.

While there has been positive news from the Biden Administration about the resumption of cruise operations, Commissioner Sola says that cruise ships must have destinations to call.  The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ guidelines for conditional sailing of cruise vessels establishes criteria for crew and passenger vaccination levels as well as protocols for shipboard activity and shore excursions.  Commissioner Sola says that ports of call should be made as reasonably safe as possible and proposes that the U.S. should provide surplus vaccines to Caribbean and Central American nations, including Panama and Mexico.  Commissioner Sola has published a separate White Paper detailing this proposal in greater detail.

“By assisting our Hemispheric neighbors, paying particular attention to those countries that host cruises originating from the U.S., we will make meaningful progress in reducing COVID-19 cases, emphasize strong relations with regional nations, and provide the foundation necessary for the recovery of an industry that is an economic engine for many American cities and industries.  We should not cede to any other nation the potential goodwill to be gained by helping our neighboring nations,” said Commissioner Sola.

In a related matter, Commissioner Sola issued the latest Fact Finding 30 Interim Report, Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the Cruise Industry on U.S. Territories in the Caribbean.  This is the fifth regionally focused examination of the consequences from the cessation of cruise operations Commissioner Sola has published.  The report details impacts to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and neighboring ports of call in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

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