Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler yesterday urged government to seriously consider the benefits and risks associated whenever a COVID-19 vaccine is chosen for The Bahamas, encouraging a “pilot program” before distribution.
She said given the quick development of COVID-19 vaccines, including trials, there must be certain measures put in place before supporting the distribution of any vaccine in The Bahamas.
“We’ve had other vaccines throughout the years that have been introduced and usually it’s a similar thing whenever a [new] vaccine comes out,” she said.
“Certainly, we know that because the COVID-19 vaccine has come out probably in record time, you know it’s something that all of us are watching to make sure it’s still safe enough and that the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s really what it boils down to when you’re advising about vaccination.
She added, “Unfortunately, in general, we know that things can potentially have a side effect. And so, even when we know that someone may need something that is helpful to them, we have to also have that discussion knowing, too, that most persons will not have the adverse effects. Generally, whenever we do advise persons to have certain things that are beneficial to them, we speak to it and that’s one of the things that helps us in determining if someone should get a medication.”
The government has made a $250,000 down payment to secure 80,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available.
Minister of Health Renward Wells said government is aiming to vaccinate 20 percent of the country’s population when one becomes available.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have already gone out for distribution in parts of the United States.
Wells also said the government will go with whichever vaccine is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While she applauded the government for doing what it must to secure a good amount of doses of the vaccine for the country, Dr. Pinder-Butler said there is a concern among healthcare professionals surrounding the rollout that would take place.
“There are two things,” she said.
“We know that governments, in general, have to be engaged just to make sure that things are available that you’re not last in the line. So, we wouldn’t necessarily say for our government not to be prepared. I know that our government has made some steps to ensure that when the vaccine is available to be shared to The Bahamas, that we’re in that number. So, I think, certainly, that’s something we would need to do. However, we do still need to be mindful of adverse effects and look to see how persons who have gotten the vaccine in different countries around the world, the impact it has had on them and potentially how that would impact our population.”
She continued, “Initially, I think when any vaccine is being rolled out, as healthcare professionals, we always want to pay special attention to how the rollout occurs.
“Certainly, we expect that the regulatory bodies would have put all the necessary measures in place to ensure that safety is of key importance, and so, we’re watching. When we look at potential side effects, those things would be important for us because as healthcare professionals, when we look at the vaccine actually being available to persons in the country, we would want as much as possible to limit any potential adverse effects.
“Certainly, we expect that there are certain high risk, elderly, healthcare professionals who, certainly, would need them, as well as the general population at large. But we’re always concerned when a vaccine is rolled out initially, just to be sure that the safety profile is what is needed. We wouldn’t encourage any vaccination to be done in country unless we know that those measures are in place and we see that the benefits outweigh the risk. So, we are watching closely what is happening in the world and that would be our recommendation for our population.
“Certainly, once we know that there are sufficient things in place to say that this is of most benefit to our population, we will definitely give light.”
Wells has said government will begin with the elderly, healthcare professionals and other individuals considered as “high risk” to be the first to get the vaccine.
He said no Bahamian will be forced to take the vaccine, adding that he and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will be among the first.
The CPSA president said out of caution, government should consider a pilot program prior to distribution.
“I would imagine that perhaps you would pilot a small group testing, which I think would be wise,” she said.
“So, I’m hopeful that the ministry would perhaps do that small group testing to see how it works in The Bahamas because it’s a different profile of patients. I don’t think we would have been involved in the trial, as far as I’m aware. I don’t know, which again is unfortunate, but sometimes that’s what happens.
“So, perhaps they would have to do a pilot of the vaccine with a small group in country before allowing it to be available to all.”