HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville has admitted that paediatric doses of the COVID-19 vaccine “are moving a little slower than we expected” with only about 320 to 330 administered so far.
The Pfizer vaccines were started for children aged five to 11 on Thursday, July 28, days after 24,000 doses were delivered to the country from France through the COVAX facility.
“I spoke with one of the team members and the paediatric doses are moving a little slower than we expected,” Dr Darville told The Tribune in a recent interview.
“To date, we have administered somewhere between 320 to 330 doses as of today (Thursday).
“The paediatric doses are available at the Mall at Marathon, the Flamingo Gardens Clinic, the Fleming Street Clinic, the Elizabeth Estates Clinic, South Beach, Family Island clinics and at the Seventeen Centre in Freeport.”
The minister said a number of factors could have contributed to the slow uptake, despite schools opening on August 29.
“It could be a combination of things. One, it could be the fact that kids are moving back and forth, two, the incidents of COVID are very low in the country at this time and we know that when the incidents are low in the country people are less motivated to be vaccinated.
“Three - the issue of the Omicron variant seems to be less virulent and so a lot people are not in hospital sick from COVID and so all of these combined factors could be associated along with parents travelling could be associated with the slow uptake with the doses, but they are available.”
He said officials were working on a strategy to encourage parents and guardians to have their children vaccinated when asked whether there was a goal in mind for this age group.
“School is closed. A lot of our kids are travelling and we have a plan to distribute paediatric doses in the schools. We have not finalised how that will be rolled out as yet, but we are working very, very assiduously to come up with a strategy.
“We know for a fact that if we are going to administer the vaccines in school a guardian or the parent must accompany the child along with a written documentation.
“So, we’re working out the logistics on how to do it in the school but as we speak all vaccines, including the paediatric doses, are available. It’s available. The roll out has been relatively slow with somewhere between 320 to 330 doses.”
Last month, Dr Darville said despite a noted drop in vaccination rates over the last several months, preliminary data had suggested that vaccine uptake was increasing in the country.
“Preliminary reports from our vaccination committees indicated that we are seeing some increased uptake,” Dr Darville said at the time. “I’m pleased at what we are seeing at the Mall of Marathon. We’re putting together a new site in Grand Bahama.
“The site of the final location, I think, has been agreed to and very soon we will be able to start administering vaccines at that location as well. Meanwhile, at all of our polyclinics, including Grand Bahama, we are administering vaccines. We intend to do it for the paediatric vaccine as well.”
More than 170,000 people in The Bahamas have been fully vaccinated against the disease since the start of the government’s vaccination programme last March.