Minister of Health Renward Wells yesterday expressed a preference for the Oxford and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
“Certainly, my preference would be that we would go with Moderna or Oxford,” Wells told reporters outside the House of Assembly.
“Well, as minister, I probably shouldn’t say that. Whatever we can get it, we will get it. I have a preference.
“I would not like to go the expensive route that requires a lot of the cold chain storage and more of a logistics operation in regards to being able to buy these specialized freezers and fly them from New Providence down to Inagua and set up the site and ensure that the vaccine is kept at this particular temperature and it has to defrost, then you inject the individual.
“I prefer that we go the route of traditional vaccines. But, again, if the Pfizer one is the one that we can get first, then we will go with that. We have the plan to be able to deploy it.”
He noted that the Oxford vaccine costs about £2, which equates to $4 per dose.
“I think the one through the COVAX facility is about $15 per dose,” Wells said.
He also noted that Pfizer, which was granted approval for usage in the United Kingdom, uses an mRNA technique.
It requires that healthcare providers transport and store the vaccine at extremely low temperatures — much colder than most medicines and vaccines.
“We have Moderna that is not the mRNA but it is a vaccine that’s more along the lines of a traditional vaccine,” the minister said.
“I think Moderna is 95 percent [and] Pfizer is 95 percent effective. The new Oxford vaccine is 90 percent effective. I would’ve spoken to the fact that the Ministry of Health would’ve put in place a strategic plan.
“The doctors and the CMO (chief medical officer), the emergency operating command center for COVID put together a plan as to how we would deploy a vaccine in country — whether we use the mRNA vaccine, which requires specialized freezers. As you know, you have to keep it at negative 80 Fahrenheit, which is excessively cold.
“So, we were looking to purchase freezers if we do go the route of Pfizer. If we go the route of Moderna, which doesn’t need that kind of freezer equipment, obviously it would be less expensive for the Bahamian people. But, we’re looking to source vaccines immediately.”
Wells has said the government made a $250,000 down payment to secure 80,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available.
He said it is aiming to vaccinate 20 percent of the population in the first phase.
Yesterday, Wells said the government plans on purchasing more than 80,000 doses.
“As much as we can purchase, we will purchase,” he said.
“We will have it available for the Bahamian people and for those who would want to be vaccinated.”
He added, “As I’ve said before in our press conference, the priority groups are obviously the healthcare professionals, frontline workers, older individuals who would want to take it because they are more susceptible to the effects of the coronavirus, and obviously those within the tourism industry because we have to open up.”