United States (US) Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts said yesterday that the Biden administration’s new policy requiring visitors to the US to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will most likely account for individuals vaccinated with AstraZeneca.
“The actual specific guidance on what vaccines will be accepted hasn’t been released yet,” she said on Guardian Radio’s “Morning Blend” with Dwight Strachan.
“But my instinct, and you know, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that AstraZeneca is probably going to be OK.
“You know, it’s approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), which usually is good enough for the United States. And, of course, it’s produced in reputable labs in the United Kingdom, so I suspect that AstraZeneca will be totally fine.
“We’ll see in a few days when additional guidance gets released, though.”
There has been some concern over the matter, particularly in recent days, given that AstraZeneca, though authorized for emergency use by the WHO, is not FDA-approved, and was in some cases, in recent months, not being accepted at some events in the US as proof of vaccination.
There has also been controversy in the UK and Europe, where entry requirements specified the acceptance of AstraZeneca dose manufactured in Europe and marketed under the name “Vaxveria” as opposed to those manufactured at the Serum Institute in India, branded as “Covishield”, as well as those doses manufactured in South Korea at SK Bio.
Earlier this week, the White House announced that come November, only foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to fly into the US.
Pitts said it is her hope that the new policy will encourage more Bahamians to get vaccinated.
“My personal hope is that this vaccine requirement will drive even more Bahamians to go in and get vaccinated sooner rather than later because it is taking a long time to get the Bahamian population up to that herd immunity point of 70 percent vaccination,” she said.
Pitts added, “My hope is that the overall response will be positive because I think we know that sometimes people need, you know, a little shove to get vaccinated. And if they can’t visit the United States without it, then hopefully this will be the little shove they need to get them over the hump.”
Fully vaccinated individuals will still have to test negative for COVID within three days of traveling to the US.
Unvaccinated Americans will be permitted to travel to the US, but will be required to test negative within one day of traveling and test again after arriving.
Children will also not be required to be fully vaccinated, but it is unclear at what age one is considered to be a child.
Pitts said that while they are awaiting more details on the new policy, parents of children over the age of 12 in The Bahamas should take advantage of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We don’t have the specifics on that yet, but we do know that children will be exempt,” she said.
“You know … we have got to remind everybody that Pfizer is approved for everybody over 12 years old. So, frankly, I would, regardless of this requirement to travel, I think the point is that we have a vaccine available in The Bahamas that is appropriate for everybody over the age of 12. So, I would encourage all of them, parents and their kids, to just go ahead and get vaccinated.”