HEALTH Minister Renward Wells. Photo: Donavan McIntosh
By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
HEALTH Minister Renward Wells says training for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines has already begun as the country awaits the arrival of its first vaccines.
The vaccine, which was developed by the University of Oxford and then produced by AstraZeneca, is administered in two doses, 28 days apart. The vaccine is said to be 70-90 percent effective against the COVID-19 virus. Yesterday the New York Times reported that a new paper says the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has the potential to slow transmission of the virus.
The NYT added that the paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, looked at data from clinical trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, the results of which were first reported late last year.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday said the vaccine will arrive in The Bahamas the second half of February through the second quarter of 2021. The statement also said the vaccine is being obtained from the World Health Organization which the government says is expected to receive within days an Emergency Use Listing. The United Kingdom, where the vaccine originates, has already approved it.
When questioned about vaccine training yesterday, Mr Wells said: “It is my understanding that training has already started. We have to also remember that a lot of the medical community would have already been engaged in vaccine administration whether it’s the flu vaccine or rubella or the mumps or measles.
“So it’s not anything new. If we were getting a vaccine like Pfizer there needed to be additional training. I understand that training is taking place.”
Asked if the fact that the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot is a drug to be administered twice means that only 50,000 people will be receiving the promised 100,000 delivery, he said he will have to review with WHO and get back to The Tribune. He continued: “I would be able to answer that later on today after we speak with the World Health Organisation. It will be either 100,000 persons or 100,000 doses which means it will be 50,000 individuals. So we will narrow down exactly how many vaccines we will receive.”
In the UK their vaccination programme began with patients being told they would receive one injection and then be called back for a second four weeks later. To speed up the process, however, the UK government decided to roll out the vaccines to as many people as possible hoping this would control the spread of the virus. Patients were assured the delay in receiving the second dose would have no affect on their protection from the virus.
The Bahamas has recently joined COVAX, a coalition led by WHO and Gavi (Vaccine Alliance). This is the entity that has informed Bahamian health authorities that The Bahamas would receive the vaccine in short order.
In an interview earlier in the year, Mr Wells said the government will not only be receiving vaccines from WHO, but will also seek to purchase them directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers. The National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee is scheduled to hold a press conference today at 5pm, when more details about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan will be released.