By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday again encouraged people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible as he marked the arrival of 33,600 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
The vaccines, which were obtained through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility, come as COVID-19 cases surge in The Bahamas and as vaccine supplies run low.
Thirty-five new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday and a 36-year-old woman of New Providence who died on Monday was the latest death recorded.
People fully vaccinated against the virus total 46,793. There have been 106,898 doses of the vaccine administered and 61,803 people have got one dose.
“For those waiting to make an appointment for a second dose of the vaccine, I encourage you to book your appointment as soon as possible,” Dr Minnis said at Jet Aviation, where the vaccines arrived.
“If you haven’t received your first dose yet please book an appointment online or visit one of the walk-up centres as they become available.”
“I would like to emphasise that throughout the pandemic the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, has continued to change. There have been many new variants of the virus and there will be more. We were taught in medical school how quickly a virus adapts to efforts to stop its spread, especially when a large number of people remain unvaccinated. This is why it is important for as many people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. This is the most effective way to address and to show the spread of a virus and its variants.”
Dr Minnis said the government is continuing to work with the United States on their donation of vaccines to this country. He said last week the US Embassy in Nassau donated four ultra-cold freezers, three of which will be used at an expanded EPU unit on New Providence while the other is sent to Grand Bahama. He said the US has also donated PPE to safely use the freezers.
Of the newly arrived 33,600 vaccine doses, 5000 will be sent to Antigua and Barbuda as payment for the vaccines that country sent to the Bahamas in late June.
Dr Minnis said second vaccine doses will be available at the Loyola Hall centre on Gladstone Road starting tomorrow and Friday.
Next Monday, people will be able to get vaccines at the Church of God of Prophecy. The Baha Mar Convention Centre and St Anselm’s Church Hall will be available for vaccines starting August 11.
Dr Minnis said health officials are working on a schedule to continue vaccinating people on Family Islands.
Dr Minnis and Health Minister Renward Wells have previously said the administration will let emergency powers orders lapse on August 13.
However, yesterday he said the matter is under discussion by Cabinet and health officials. Many believe that with rising cases and high hospitalisation numbers, the administration is unlikely to move forward without some ability to restrict the activities and gatherings of people.
UNITED STATES DELIVERS FREEZERS FOR VACCINES
THE United States has delivered four ultra-low temperature medical freezers to the Ministry of Health for storing COVID- 19 vaccines.
The four freezers, valued at over $100,000 can cool vaccine doses at up to -122 degrees Fahrenheit and can store over 168,000 doses.
US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) facilitated the acquisition of the freezers. In addition to the ULT medical freezers, USNORTHCOM is also providing additional medical supplies – valued at around $115,000 – needed to administer and handle any vaccine doses received, including syringes, phlebotomy equipment and specialised tools and personal protective equipment for manipulating materials at sub-zero temperatures.
Those materials will be arriving over the coming week.
General Glen VanHerck, commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM said officials are committed to ensuring The Bahamas has the equipment it needs to reach vaccination goals.
He said: “To completely defeat this virus we cannot isolate our response to domestic actions, we need to support and supplement the medical infrastructure of our geographic partners, and recognize that their safety is our safety. US Northern Command is committed to the support of The Bahamas and ensuring they are equipped to reach their vaccination goals.”
This latest donation of ULT freezers and additional supplies adds to the long list of donations and assistance the US has already provided to The Bahamas through the pandemic.
These include: two Rhode Island National Guard missions to distribute thousands of vaccine doses to eight family islands throughout The Bahamas (Mayaguana, Acklins Island, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Long Island, Inagua, Bimini, and Eleuthera); $535,000 in AIRVO respirators, Biofire test kits, and additional medical supplies from USNORTHC; mobile shelters especially retrofitted to serve as medical tents for the COVID-19 response.
Further $20,000 worth of respirator equipment from Rhode Island National Guard and a $750,000 USAID ongoing grant to Bahamas Red Cross Society, which has provided (among others) – $85,000 BioFire respiratory disease rapid diagnostic machine, PPE and other services for frontline medical workers and sanitising stations at local schools in New Providence.