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Vaccine rollout could begin by next week, Wells says

Minister of Health Renward Wells said the Ministry of Health could begin its vaccine rollout as early as next week, as the first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to arrive in The Bahamas by the end of this week.

“We’re looking at sort of the end of the week,” Wells said outside Cabinet when asked when the vaccines are set to arrive.

“…It is good news. What would make it even better news is when the vaccine lands, that the Bahamian people avail themselves of it to the maximum possible use. We want the Bahamian people vaccinated because we want our economy open. We want the Bahamian people safe.”

Wells said that, as a result, the rollout might be able to begin next week.

“The rollout could start as early as next week – could start – but I will leave the announcement of such things up to the honorable prime minister, who has been the head in leading the charge in many regards.”

Wells was hesitant to say exactly how many doses are expected this week, but health officials have said previously that The Bahamas is expected to receive 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca through the COVAX Facility, a coalition led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Wells said that should the full 100,000 does arrive, the government will move to give 100,000 people at least one dose of the vaccine, as opposed to using this first batch to fully vaccinate 50,000 people with two doses each.

“We had always talked about the 100,000 doses, which is about 50,000 persons if you give everyone two doses,” he said.

“But the doses are spread over a period of eight to 12 weeks for AstraZeneca. That’s when they say it’s most effective.

“So, more than likely what the government will do is vaccinate everyone first, give them their first shot, those who want to be vaccinated, which could be up to 100,000 persons barring we don’t have any spillage and wastage.”

He assured that those people who receive their first dose of the vaccine will be able to get the second within the stipulated period.

“We will not have a lull, because if we do have a lull we will not end up with the kind of efficacy and effect that we want,” he said.

Wells added, “We have approached Covishield – the Serum Institute of India is where the AstraZeneca [vaccine] is being produced…we have approached them directly to purchase directly vaccines from AstraZeneca.

“We have also, as you know, through the African portal, we have about enough vaccines offered to us to vaccinate about 70,000 persons, which is about another 140,000 doses.

“And then there is the additional purchase that we can make through the WHO because, remember now, the 100,000 doses that we’re getting…The Bahamas has already put down the down payment for 80,000 persons.

“So, we’re getting additional vaccines already through the WHO portal that is due to us based on the commitment that we have made already to the WHO.”

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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