During the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas placed greater emphasis on regulating the importation of medicines and health technologies. The country has relied increasingly on the Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS), a regional effort that provides recommendations to authorize medical products to Caribbean countries.
Access to safe, effective, affordable, and quality medicines and medical technologies is one of the building blocks for strengthening primary health care (PHC)-based health systems to achieve universal health coverage (UHC). Regulatory authorities play a crucial role in protecting the public’s health by ensuring high standards for medical products. They also influence affordability through the assessment of generic medicines and biosimilars for market authorization.
PAHO/WHO, through the UHC Partnership, has been working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and countries in the region to support the development and strengthening of the CRS. The Caribbean Public Health Agency/CRS is a reliance based regulatory system that serves CARICOM Member States. It was established in 2015 with continuous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors. It provides a single entry into the Caribbean, recommended its first product in April 2017 and has since recommended over 200 products for use in Caribbean countries.
PAHO/WHO is providing technical support to the Ministry of Health and Wellness of The Bahamas in its collaboration with the CRS to establish a fast approval pathway for all recommended products. The Ministry also received assistance in creating a policy document regarding the registration and importation of COVID-19 vaccines into the country. When COVID-19 vaccines became available, the CRS played a vital role in reviewing and recommending vaccines so countries could approve them quickly.
Timely access to medicines and other health technologies has proven particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain delivery of essential health services to the population in need. Beyond the pandemic, these improvements are also crucial in making the country’s health systems stronger and more resilient so that health for all can be achieved.
The Bahamas is among the 115 countries and areas to which the UHC Partnership helps deliver WHO support and technical expertise in advancing UHC through a PHC approach. The Partnership is one of WHO’s largest initiatives on international cooperation for UHC and PHC. It is funded by the European Union, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the Government of Japan, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the United Kingdom – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Belgium, Canada and Germany.