HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said yesterday that officials are hoping to have 70 percent of the population vaccinated against COVID-19 before lifting the remaining mask mandates in the country.
He also said the government is hoping to reach its vaccination goal by the end of the year.
According to the government’s latest vaccine tracker, more than 170,000 people have been fully vaccinated in The Bahamas to date, while more than 159,000 people have received their first dose.
“We are now somewhere between 54 to 56 percent and I say that very loosely,” Dr Darville said yesterday ahead of a Cabinet meeting. “We have now brought in the paediatric vaccines as well and we’re hoping to reach 60 percent within a few months and hopefully, reach our target of 70 percent by the end of the year.
“Once again, we’re pleading to the country and those who have not received vaccines to please come forward and get their first and second jab and for those who need boosters, the centres are open. Let us begin to work together to achieve the target of 70 percent in the country by the end of the year.”
The government’s push to get more Bahamians vaccinated comes amid heightened calls for the remaining mask mandate to be removed.
While mask wearing is not required in outdoor settings, it is still largely required indoors.
Speaking on the issue last week, Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis told reporters government would consider removing the COVID-19 protocol if another 20,000 people were to get vaccinated.
Asked yesterday what officials considered the ideal number of people to be vaccinated to lift the measure, Dr Darville said there was no ideal number.
“There’s really no ideal (number),” he added. “It is a lot of associated factors within country. One of the things that we’re committed to is the World Health Organisation’s mandate for 70 percent of the population to be vaccinated by the end of the year.
“It’s out there. Many other Caribbean countries are trying to meet that particular target. The reason why that’s important is because we believe that if we get at that level, it will prevent a large influx of individuals to our hospital systems in the event that we start to see higher instances of COVID in country.
“Fortunately for us right now, the numbers appear to be trending downward and we have already petitioned the CDC for us to go back at Level Two, which is important to us in our tourism sector as well as our economy.”
He also said once the country meets its vaccination target and virus cases and hospitalisations remain low, “we will be able to reduce or even remove the mask mandate”.
Previously, only people aged 12 and older were eligible for doses in the country; however, children aged 5 to 11 years are now able to have access to COVID-19 vaccines thanks to a donation of 24,000 paediatric doses from France last month.
Dr Darville said since the government launched its vaccination programme for children last week, there has been a good turnout.
“We launched on the 28th,” he said. “We had a very good turnout. I think about 63 to 68 young individuals received the vaccines. We’re starting vaccinations again today (Tuesday) and we have about 66 bookings and a lot of walk-ins and so we’re watching it very closely because we’re just ironing out the kinks here in New Providence and of course, we’ll be rolling it out in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands as soon as we work pout all of the logistics and the timing for each clinic.”
Yesterday, Dr Darville was also asked how soon vaccines for the monkeypox virus could be in country.
However, he was unable to give a timeline, only saying “it would be sooner than later”.
He added: “We have been working from day one with our partners at the Pan American Health Organisation. We are definitely in the community. We are presently starting consultations with those in the border, customs and immigration and some of our uniformed individuals. We are presently reaching out to high-risk groups in the tourism sector and so the list goes on and on and so we’re working very closely with PAHO and we realise that it’s important for us to stay on top of it.”