Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said local officials are examining whether third shots should be made available to Bahamian residents who are immunocompromised and/or over 60 years old.
His announcement comes against the backdrop of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention now authorising booster shots for all adults over 18.
The CDC announced last week that Americans over 50 as well as those 18 and older who live in long-term care facilities “should” get booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. The CDC said all adults over 18 “may” get booster doses.
Recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine were already cleared to get a booster at least two months after their initial shot. Officials in the United Kingdom have also cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine as a booster shot.
Dr Darville said yesterday: “We’re looking along with the vaccination committee to move to offer a third dose for individuals who are immunocompromised, while discussions are ongoing with the vaccination committee and the Pan Health American Organisation for the possibility for a third dose for individuals over the age of 60. Even though that is not conclusive, other countries around the world are doing it and The Bahamas needs to take it into consideration.
“We are hoping to jumpstart us in the direction we need to head in with individuals over 60 who qualify, who want it. The report from the CDC was interesting. We have looked at it in our settings, with young adults such as 18-year-olds. We could hold off from them because they seldom go into hospitalisation. They may not need a booster but we would like to target those individuals who have not had any vaccines and to use up the vaccines for third doses when there are other individuals in the country who have not even gotten their first dose, that is the big debate because these vaccines are very precious.
“But with that being said, we have vaccines that––and I don’t like to say this in the public domain because it creates the false impression that it may not be good––that are near expiration or close to expiration. The reality is there are people who need the third dose and there are people who qualify for the third dose and who want it, the question is should we prevent them from getting it, or should we do it simultaneously? I’m of the view that we should go after the third dose as well as target those individuals who have not gotten any.”
Dr Darville said the vaccination committee and Ministry of Health are actively considering making third doses available at least to people who are immunocompromised.
The push for boosters come as infection rates rise in the United States and soar in much of Europe.
Locally, officials are now struggling to get more people to take the vaccine. Elsewhere, officials have used cash or lottery incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated. Research has shown that cash vouchers help support vaccine uptake. Asked yesterday if the government will consider such incentives to get more people vaccinated, Dr Darville said he will look into the matter.