Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Assistant Director Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said the COVAX facility will start deploying COVID-19 vaccines to Caribbean countries in March.
“We cannot provide you with the date and the amount of doses for each country,” Barbosa said during a PAHO press briefing.
“We need to make this kind of estimation for 190 countries that are a part of COVAX. But, the deployment of the vaccines through COVAX will be made [with] equitable access.
“So, we’ll be deploying these vaccines to the countries in the Caribbean in March. We have an initiative that’s called the first wave initiative that will provide a very limited amount of the vaccine in February to some countries. This is kind of a pilot project in these countries.”
The COVAX facility, an arm of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is focused on ensuring “that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth”. The program was launched by the World Health Organization, the European Commission and France.
In a statement, which was released yesterday, PAHO said COVAX has notified countries in the Americas of the estimated dose allocation for the first phase of vaccine delivery in a letter to health authorities.
“Thirty-six of the countries and territories participating in COVAX received letters about the estimated number of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that they could be receiving from the second half of February through the second quarter of 2021,” it said.
Countries in the Americas participating in COVAX that received letters are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucía, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, chair of the National COVID-19 Consultative Committee and special health advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister, yesterday confirmed to The Nassau Guardian that the government was notified by COVAX.
The Bahamas made a down payment to secure about 80,000 doses of a vaccine through the COVAX facility.
On Wednesday, while speaking in the House of Assembly, Minister of Health Renward Wells said The Bahamas is on its way to receiving a vaccine “very soon”.
“The Pan American Health Organization has established a COVID-19 Vaccine Introduction Readiness Tool (VIRAT) dashboard for monitoring member state progress with preparedness to receive vaccinations from the COVAX facility,” he said.
“Monthly submissions from the country inform reflected level of readiness on the dashboard. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise that The Bahamas readiness is reflecting the majority seven of nine progress indicators in the maturity stages and the remaining two completed. These indicators inform timing of access of countries to the in-country delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Wells said equitable and efficient distribution of a vaccine is “high on the agenda” of the Ministry of Health.
He noted that the ministry has already developed and obtained Cabinet approval for its national COVID-19 strategic plan.
“The National Vaccine Consultative Committee is providing support to the Ministry of Health technical teams to ensure all areas of roll out are clearly defined and resourced for rapid and efficient implementation once vaccines are in-country,” Wells said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that it signed an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer for up to 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
It said the rollout will commence with the successful negotiation and execution of supply agreements.
WHO also announced that it will exercise an option – via an existing agreement with Serum Institute of India (SII) – to receive its first 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University-developed vaccine manufactured by SII.
A “majority” of the first 100 million doses will be earmarked for delivery in the first quarter of this year, pending WHO Emergency Use Listing, according to WHO.