The Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, pictured being administered in Morocco in January. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE country is expected to receive up to 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine beginning the second half of this month through the second quarter of 2021, the Office of the Prime Minister has announced.
In a press statement yesterday, OPM said the government received notification from COVAX of the estimated COVID-19 vaccine dose allocation for the first phase of delivery.
“COVAX, a coalition led by the World Health Organisation and Gavi (Vaccine Alliance), informed Bahamian health authorities that The Bahamas could receive 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, starting the second half of February through the second quarter of 2021.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine has received emergency use Listing approval from WHO.”
OPM said the National COVID-19 Consultative Committee will hold a press conference tomorrow at 5pm where details of the vaccine distribution plan will be released.
Yesterday, several top doctors, who did not want to go on record about the decision ahead of the committee’s press conference, told The Tribune “this is good news” for the country, which has managed to slow new cases of the virus.
Some countries have placed limits so far on the AstraZeneca vaccine. Germany has said it will not recommend the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people aged 65 and over.
According to multiple news outlets, Germany will only offer the vaccine to 18–64-year-olds because there has not been enough data on how it affected the over-65 age category.
Drug maker AstraZeneca, however, has been open about the fact that in the early stages of study, only about 10 percent of the people recruited to test the effectiveness of the vaccine were 65 or older.
However, trials on this age group are currently running in several different countries.
The vaccine, scientists have found, has been shown to be safe and older people appear to have a strong immune response to the vaccine. After receiving the shots, their blood has a good deal of the required antibodies that can fight coronavirus.
The company says its clinical trial data “supports efficacy in the over-65s age group”.
This vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus known as an adenovirus from chimpanzees, according to the BBC.
It has been modified to look more like coronavirus - although it can’t cause illness.
When the vaccine is injected into a patient, it prompts the immune system to start making antibodies and primes it to attack any coronavirus infection.
Research has shown it is highly effective and no one given the vaccine in trials developed severe COVID or needed hospital treatment.
Unlike Pfizer’s jab - which has to be kept at an extremely cold temperature (-70C) - the Oxford vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge.
This makes it much easier to distribute, which may have been a key deciding factor for Bahamian health officials.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen has said recently that it is likely that the government will use more than one COVID-19 to vaccinate Bahamians.
While speaking at a forum hosted by the Bahamian American Association of the Washington, DC, & Mid-Atlantic Region (BAAWMAR), Dr Brennen said Bahamian officials were designing a vaccine strategy centred on being able to ensure that vaccines brought into the country can be used as efficiently as possible.
“But it’s not going to be one vaccine for the entire country,” he said. “We are preparing such that if we receive aliquots of one that can’t fulfill the entire requirement, that we’ll be able to use that one first and then as we get another one, we’ll still be able to deliver that other one as well.”
He said the government also plans to track who gets which vaccine to ensure they receive a follow-up shot, if needed, of the same vaccine.