Vaccination site reduction on NP not due to safety, official says

The decision by the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee to reduce the number of vaccine sites on New Providence starting this Saturday is not due to safety concerns, said Nurse Ruth Bastian, who serves on the country’s National Immunization Coordinating Committee.

“We haven’t paused because of safety, in New Providence,” she said during a Ministry of Health livestream event yesterday.

“It’s because we want to make sure that the other islands also have an opportunity to receive immunization coverage.”

Rumors have spread across social media sites of alleged severe reactions from residents to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the committee said, as of April 4, 69 people who got the shot reported mild symptoms “supposedly attributable” to getting vaccinated.

None of the reports resulted in hospitalizations or death, officials said.

Bastian continued, “The Bahamas is not New Providence and so we have to remember that we have our brothers and sisters in other islands where we also have to provide vaccination coverage for.

“The pause that we are doing, not so much as a pause, but we are now beginning to focus on the Family Islands, so that is why the reduction in some of the sites on New Providence will be taking place. 

“We have started in Grand Bahama and Eleuthera and to date, teams have gone to Abaco to start the vaccination campaign in Abaco. 

“The other islands can now begin to listen out for when it would be rolling out in their communities as well.”

In a statement last night, the committee explained that there will be a pause in appointments on Saturday at the Loyola Hall and Church of God of Prophecy vaccination centers on New Providence.

This pause, the committee reiterated, is not related to any suspected adverse event related to COVID-19.

“The committee is aware of a report circulating on social media which refers to vaccinations having been paused for more evaluations,” he statement said. 

“The committee also notes that the social media report refers to a woman experiencing a motor skills shutdown after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“The Ministry of Health today confirmed that to date it had not received a report of an ESAVI (Events Supposedly Attributable to Vaccination or Immunization of Vaccine) as described in the social media report. 

“Reporting ESAVI after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is essential. These reports assist the Ministry of Health to investigate and determine if the stated symptoms are definitively related to vaccination and provide the necessary support to the person who is experiencing the symptoms.”

The committee said that on Saturday, April 17, the mobile unit will continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the home-bound with disabilities and resident facilities on New Providence. 

“On New Providence, the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine will continue the week of Monday 19 April at the Church of God of Prophecy, East Street; the Stapledon School, Dolphin Drive and a new vaccination site,” the committee said. 

“As previously planned, the Atlantis and Baha Mar vaccination sites will not be opened next week. Plans will be finalized next week for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine on the Family Islands. The administration of the vaccine on the Family Islands will take place the week of 26 April.”

As of Sunday, more than 15,000 Bahamians and residents got their first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The Bahamas received 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month.

An additional 67,200 doses secured through the COVAX Facility are expected in the country next month.

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