NASSAU| After much anticipation, Bahamians – although some are somewhat wary of taking it – expected to hear the announcement today that the COVID-19 vaccine had finally arrived in country. Instead, a national address by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed a further delay. What will be the first shipment of Oxford’s Astra Zenica COVID-19 vaccine is now expected to get here on Wednesday, March 10th.
Donated to The Bahamas by the government of India, this tranche of 20,000 doses is a bonus to the promised 100,000 doses from the COVAX facility that Health Minister Renward Wells said has already been paid for and was expected first by the middle of last month, and then again by the last week of last month. Reportedly, the first batch of those doses from COVAX will reach The Bahamas by the end of this month, while the remaining doses are expected by the end of May.
Once in The Bahamas, the vaccine will be stored at the National Storage Facility on New Providence. It will be transferred to the Family Islands as needed. The storage facility will be under 24-hour guard by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
Prime Minister Minnis advised that because the vaccine will be coming in smaller batches from what was initially stated, there will be slight changes to the country’s distribution roll out. The roll out with the first 20,000 doses will now begin with public and private healthcare workers, residents and staff at elderly care homes, and non-ambulatory residents registered in the public health system. The first and critical priority group includes first line emergency responders and those among the population’s most vulnerable.
He also advised that the roll out will commence days after arrival, beginning with health care workers who are encouraged to make their appointments for inoculation.
In an attempt to shore up support for the vaccine, the Prime Minister noted that the doses from India have been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization and certified by the Caribbean Regulatory System. He is urging all who are eligible to take the vaccine to do so, effectively putting the onus on the masses to get the economy going again.