By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
ANYONE who receives a COVID-19 vaccine once they become available in the country will receive a certificate that “may be associated with travel in the future,” which is a “potential requirement being discussed internationally,” the Office of the Prime Minister said last night.
In a press release, OPM also said the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee is currently working to finalise an operational plan to distribute coronavirus vaccines to eligible residents in the shortest possible time across the country.
Vaccinators are currently being recruited, who will be among the first to receive the jab once the drugs are available in the country.
As the government prepares for the arrival of World Health Organisation approved vaccines, baseline surveys have already been carried out among healthcare workers and the general public, OPM added.
“The results are helping to inform the phased distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” OPM said.
“Information on vaccine safety and the national plan will be shared with the public in regular communications across multiple platforms.
“Recruitment of teams of vaccinators has already started. Training will begin shortly. Vaccinators will be among the first to receive vaccines once they are available in The Bahamas.”
OPM reiterated that vaccination will be voluntary and at no cost to the public.
“The policy of the government of The Bahamas is that the decision on taking a COVID-19 vaccine will be entirely voluntary. Vaccines will be free of charge. Vaccines will be given to adults.
“At this time, the two-dose regimen, which has not been approved for people under the age of 18, has met the required standards for distribution in The Bahamas.
“It is anticipated that anyone receiving a vaccine will receive a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The presentation of the certificate may be associated with travel in the future, a potential requirement being discussed internationally,” OPM said.
On Friday, USA Today reported that the European Union is considering “a common vaccine certificate” to help travellers get to their destinations and prevent tourism from suffering another bad year due to the pandemic.
According to EuroNews, however, the WHO said on Friday it was opposed “for the time being” to the introduction of certificates of COVID-19 vaccination — also called “vaccine passports” — as a condition for allowing international travellers entry into other countries.
Meanwhile, the OPM has also revealed the full list of members on the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee.
The members are Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, committee chair; Bishop Delton Fernander, president of the Bahamas Christian Council; Dr Marcella Elliott-Ferguson, vice president of administrative services, University of The Bahamas; Stephaine Dean, public health nurse; Dr Danny Davis, consultant, Ministry of Health; Ed Fields, managing director, Nassau Downtown Redevelopment Partnership; Archdeacon Keith Cartwright, rector of St Agnes Parish; Viana Gardiner, Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, Office of the Prime Minister; and Erica Wells Cox, director of communications, Office of the Prime Minister.
Specific sub-committees made up of additional members of the public and private sectors will also be formed to provide for wider consultation and support where needed.
Last week, Minister of Health Renward Wells said the government had not yet decided what vaccine it was going to purchase and that it would work with the WHO and directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers to obtain the vaccines.
The government, he said, was considering the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johson vaccines.
Other island nations like the Cayman Islands and neighbouring Turks and Caicos Islands have already started vaccination campaigns starting with their healthcare professionals.
OPM’s statement said vaccines are being made available through WHO’s COVID-19 Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility).
The Bahamas has already made a down payment to secure enough doses to vaccinate 20 percent of the population through the COVAX Facility, once available.
Direct contact has already been made with vaccine providers in an effort to secure additional doses.
It is anticipated that vaccines will become available in The Bahamas by the end of the first quarter of 2021