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Pharmacist: Govt should let private sector source COVID-19 vaccines

With the number of AstraZeneca vaccine doses running low in the country, a leading member of the pharmaceutical community said the government needs to loosen its grip on sourcing vaccines and allow the private sector to step in to provide any of the four vaccines approved for entry into the country.

As it stands, travelers entering The Bahamas do not have to present a negative COVID-19 test if they are fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

It is unclear how many doses of the vaccine are left in the country, as the government awaits another 33,000 doses from a third tranche from the COVAX Facility at the end of the month.

The well-respected pharmacist said it makes no sense that the government would not access the buying power of local pharmaceutical distributors to makes vaccines available to those who don’t mind paying for the jab.

“The government needs to allow the private sector to explore how to get any of the four approved vaccines that they allow people to come into the country without testing with. Any of the four. People will say how will the private sector do something the government can’t, but the thing is a lot of the private pharmacies and distributors here are actually parts of buying groups with major networks within the UK and within the US. So there is no reason,” the pharmacist told Guardian Business on the condition of anonymity.

“Yes you may have a small distributor here in this country, but they are able to buy through the group where they are connected with major networks in the US that services millions of people, so their buying power is actually greater. Allow people to access that.”

The Bahamas has received 92,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, of which 20,000 were donated by the Indian government, 5,000 were borrowed from Antigua and Barbuda and the remaining doses were secured through the COVAX Facility.

“I also think what the government needs to do is put price control on them and shouldn’t let them gouge folks, they should be able to say this is what we paid for, have a reasonable mark up and people that can go and pay for it can go and get the vaccine. If the government wants to go and source it for people who are unable to pay but want the vaccine, then go ahead and do that,” the pharmacist said.

“Most Bahamians who have group insurance through their work, the companies are actually local insurers, so the government can work it out with the local insurers so that they underwrite the cost of those vaccines. And for me as an insurer, for me to underwrite a $50 shot rather than someone having COVID-19 and racking up bills is better.”

As of July 10, 97,992 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered in The Bahamas, officials have revealed.

Sixty thousand, three hundred and three people had received at least one dose of the vaccine. A total of 37,689 people had been fully vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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