HEALTH Minister Renward Wells. Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
HEALTH Minister Renward Wells said the government will spend about $100,000 for a number of ultra-cold coolers that could store Pfizer vaccines even though there are no plans to acquire those vaccines at the moment.
Pfizer vaccines must be stored at -70 degree temperature, making them a suboptimal choice for rural areas and developing countries.
Although there are no current plans to get the Pfizer vaccine, Mr Wells said the Cabinet approved the purchase of the coolers.
“I’m of the view it’s always better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” he said. “You’re looking at around $100,000 for all of the coolers. I believe it’s about ten coolers.”
At a press conference last week, Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, head of the COVID-19 Vaccine National Consultative Committee, said of the three prominent global vaccines – Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the one officials preferred.
She suggested Pfizer was the least attractive of the options.
“We were quite amenable to receiving Moderna but because of the ultra-cold requirements of Pfizer we recognise that would have been a challenge for portability, particularly throughout the archipelago,” she said.
Officials anticipate that 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country sometime between now and the end of the second quarter of the year through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility.
Meanwhile, some countries in the region have sought access to vaccines through other channels.
According to international reports, Dominica and Barbados this week received vaccines made in India.
On Wednesday, the Office of the Prime Minister announced that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to all people over the age of 18 after the WHO endorsed its use for people over 65.
Health officials have formed three “priority groups”, a characterisation that will determine who gets the vaccine and when.
Group one includes healthcare workers, uniform branch workers and elder care providers.
Group two includes people with disabilities, people living in congregate settings, critical workers in high-risk settings, other essential service workers, people with co-morbidities and underlying chronic conditions and sea, air and ground personnel.
Group three will include all other adults.