Govt hopes COVID vaccine available by end of first quarter

The government hopes to have a COVID-19 vaccine available in The Bahamas before the end of the first quarter of 2021, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells.

“…The Bahamas government is aggressively seeking to procure vaccines and we’re doing all that we can to ensure that in the first quarter of this year, that we’ll be able to present a viable vaccine to the Bahamian people,” said Wells during a press conference on Friday.

He added, “Worldwide, there is a limited supply of available COVID-19 vaccines. This predicament, unfortunately, invites many unscrupulous and dishonest persons to prey on the fears and concerns of others by providing and selling counterfeit vaccines. Falsification, theft and illegal advertising or sale of COVID-19 vaccines is a crime and we will be closely monitoring our national landscape to ensure that this does not happen.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to take heed. Do not purchase COVID-19 vaccines online or from any informal market, such as the back of a car. When a safe and effective vaccine is available in the country, the public will be informed and invited to receive the vaccine in specific groups, at no cost. The vaccine will be made available at our government clinics and multiple other Ministry of Health approved facilities for ease of access and quick roll-out.”

Wells said the government is seeking to secure a vaccine through the World Health Organization.

He also noted that the government is “keeping its options open and looking at its connections directly with distributors of the approved vaccines”.

“We will be updating the Bahamian people,” he said.

“The prime minister will be updating the Bahamian people as we go along in regards to how we’re progressing with procuring the necessary vaccine.”

Wells said the prime minister has established a COVID-19 Vaccine National Consultative Committee to “safely introduce” the vaccine in The Bahamas.

“This committee will give advice to the Ministry of Health’s National Immunization Coordinating Committee (NICC) and the National Immunization Technical Working Group (NITWG),” he said.

“Be assured, government’s objective remains the same — to continually provide free vaccines to all who wish to benefit from the protection that vaccination offers. Again, let me state the policy of the government of The Bahamas: the COVID-19 vaccine will be given without charge to the Bahamian people and uptake of this vaccine, by the Bahamian people, will be completely voluntary.”

Wells said Cabinet has approved a National COVID-19 Vaccine Strategic Plan. However, that plan has not been released to the public.

When asked for a breakdown of how the ministry intends to deliver the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan replied, “We [have] put together a comprehensive immunization national COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Within that strategy, we [have] outlined key prioritized groupings … the healthcare workers, frontline workers, including persons who are at highest risk for actually getting COVID or having [the] worst outcomes from COVID.

“That is what is included in our strategic document. And we have a phased approach that is proposed to ensure that, as we access the vaccine, we get those groupings — the highest risk groupings — immunized first and then we continue to move on including additional groupings.”

McMillan said the ministry has “a number of work streams” under that plan.

She said there is a technical working group, which is chaired by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen, and “those work streams actually have a reporting responsibility”.

“We meet weekly to get updates on the specifics,” she noted.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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