By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Renward Wells said the country is expected to receive its first doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX Facility soon, with additional doses of the brand anticipated to arrive in the country later this year.
Speaking to reporters before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Wells said the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine will consist of 57,330 doses and added that officials are hoping to have those vaccines here by the end of the month.
“We will have a more definitive date when the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in (the) country by Friday of this week,” Mr Wells said.
“The COVAX Facility, through PAHO, has informed the Caribbean region as to what is available and the Bahamas has been offered some 57,330 doses of Pfizer through PAHO. “You would also be aware that we are entitled to some 33 plus thousand doses of AstraZeneca. The date for arrival of that vaccine is July 26 and so we are eagerly awaiting AstraZeneca on July 26. We’re also awaiting the update through CARICOM for the donation directly from the United States as to how much doses of that vaccine we will be receiving. We should have that update this week as well.”
The news comes amid concerns about low vaccine supply in the country, with vaccination sites only showing available bookings online until late July.
To date, the Bahamas has received 67,200 of vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility, with the remaining 33,600 doses expected to be delivered at the end of this month.
Twenty thousand doses were donated by the Indian government in March.
Yesterday, Mr Wells said the government continues to be engaged in discussions with its Caribbean counterparts to shore up on its vaccine supplies.
He also said the government is still in talks with China concerning its offer to provide the country with its Sinopharm vaccine.
“We are sourcing vaccines from everywhere we can possibly obtain vaccines under the. . .guidance of WHO rules and so we are looking to continue with our vaccination programme in country and I want Bahamians to go to the site and sign up and we will continue to vaccinate as vaccines come in country,” he said.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for emergency use in children aged 12 and older.
In recent weeks, more young Bahamians have been catching COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill during the third wave of the virus than what was seen during previous waves.
The country’s youngest victim to have died from the virus is a five-month-old girl who passed away on June 26, according to health officials.
Yesterday, Mr Wells said officials will consider setting a portion of the Pfizer vaccines aside specifically for young children.
“We will most certainly take that into consideration as a part of the overall vaccination programme,” he said when asked about the issue. “You know our kids are going back to school in September so obviously, we need to be able to take that into consideration so that is one of the reasons why we sought to source Pfizer because Pfizer is the only EUL approved vaccine for individuals under the age of 18.”
The Bahamas has administered 97,992 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the Ministry of Health.
Health officials said 60,303 people have received their first dose, while 37,689 have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
Asked if the government is still hoping to end the current state of emergency next month, Mr Wells said to his knowledge, there has been no change of plan.
He said when the emergency orders end, there will also be no vaccination day for fully vaccinated people as was previously announced.
“The state of emergency ends on August 13,” the Health Minister said. “If there’s going to be any change to that, obviously the competent authority, the Cabinet of The Bahamas would have to come back to the Bahamian people to say so, but right now there is no discussion about changing the fact that the emergency orders end on August 13.
“But if it was to change, the Government of The Bahamas will come to the Bahamian people in the shortest possible time and inform the country as to what direction we are to go in.
“But, you know in order to be able to do that, I do believe under the law you would have to go to the House of Assembly and the (House of Assembly) doesn’t meet until the 22nd of September. We would have to call an emergency session and the Governor General would have to call the (House of Assembly) back into session to be able to do that, but as it stands now, we’re moving forward.”
Since the pandemic, The Bahamas has recorded 13,233 cases of COVID-19. Of this count, 926 cases remain active.