Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville says the government is planning to roll out booster vaccine shots to immunocompromised Bahamians and residents before year’s end amid mounting concerns of a possible fourth COVID-19 wave.
Earlier this week, Dr Darville told The Tribune local officials were examining whether to offer third shots to Bahamians with weakened immune systems, including residents over the age of 60.
Yesterday, he told reporters that given the imminent concerns about another virus wave hitting the country, officials decided to make the shots available to best protect those most vulnerable against the disease.
According to Dr Darville, officials are now in the final stages of developing a platform to assist with the distribution of third doses.
He also added the system should be launched sometime this week or next week.
“We’ve clearly indicated that we’re looking now to give the third jab to the immunocompromised and the platform for that is being done as we speak and so hopefully this week or next week we will launch that platform,” the minister said before heading into yesterday morning’s Cabinet meeting.
“We’re concerned about the possibility of a fourth wave and those individuals who are at high risk, we will like for them to get their third jab in order to protect them and prevent them from being hospitalised and the possibility of demise.”
Asked if Bahamians can expect the shots to be rolled out before year’s end, the minister replied: “Definitely before the end of the year”.
This comes after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that it will be authorising booster shots for all adults over 18.
The CDC said 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.
All adults over 18 “may” get booster doses, according to the CDC.
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: “We’ve been reading the CDC reports and we realise that many countries across the world are offering the booster shots. For that, we are definitely looking at it in our consultative committee but at this particular time the final stages are being put together in order to for us to launch the third dose for immunocompromised individuals while we beef up our vaccination campaign throughout New Providence, the Family Island and Grand Bahama for residents everywhere.”
According to the government’s latest vaccine tracker, 143,434 people in The Bahamas have been fully vaccinated against the virus, while 141,983 have received at least one vaccine dose.
In terms of daily COVID-19 infections, data from the Ministry of Health show that cases continue to trend downward, with only 223 cases still active as of November 21.
The stabilised COVID-19 situation in country comes as some countries, including the US and much of Europe, are seeing a rise in virus numbers.
Yesterday, Dr Darville advised Bahamians travelling abroad ahead of the holiday season to continue adhering to the recommended health measures.
He said: “For those travelling to the United States, some things are essential – mask wearing, do not take it for granted. Make sure you have a high-quality mask and make sure you keep the mask on in public spaces.”
“Make sure you wash your hands when you are in the store shopping, try to be as socially distant as you possibly can. The CDC has published some results that clearly indicate that mask wearing reduces the possibility of transmission for COVID and we encourage every Bahamian to do so locally as well as when they’re abroad.”