NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Renward Wells said the government is “working on all fronts” to secure COVID-19 vaccines and expects to obtain a vaccine in-country by the second quarter of 2021.
COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in the British Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos.
“Those countries in the Caribbean [that] are receiving COVID-19 vaccines, you would realize that they are all British protectorates, a part of the United Kingdom and a part of the UK’s policy is it is distributing vaccines to its territories,” Wells said during a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday.
“So, you would find the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands — those entities receiving vaccines.
“As I would have said in my statement earlier, The Bahamas government is aggressively seeking to procure vaccines and we’re doing all that we can to ensure that in the first quarter of this year, that we’ll be able to present a viable vaccine to the Bahamian people.”
Asked how the Ministry of Health intends to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to the public and which groups will receive the vaccine in the first tranche, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said while the setting did not permit for a breakdown of the entire rollout process, the ministry has “put together a comprehensive immunization national COVID-19 vaccination strategy”.
“Within that strategy, we would have outlined key prioritized groupings — of course, which include, high on the list, the healthcare workers; frontline workers; persons who are at highest risk for actually getting COVID or having worse outcomes for COVID,” McMillan said.
“That is what is included in our strategic document and we have a phased approach that is proposed to ensure, as we access the vaccine, we get those groupings — the highest risk groupings — immunized first, and then we continue to move on, including additional groupings.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen will chair a technical working group responsible for various workstreams that range from prioritizing subgroups, monitoring rollout of the vaccine, cold chain and logistics, among other areas of the government’s national strategy.
Asked how long it would take for the population — for those willing — to be vaccinated, McMillan said access to the vaccine is a factor.
She said the government continues to work with the World Health Organization and its COVAX Facility to get sufficient doses for 20 percent of the population and ensure The Bahamas is prepared to roll them out.
“We will have our people ready to take the vaccine and we will also be able to administer the vaccine in a safe way, and be able to show that we are…actually prepared to roll out further to the wider population,” she said.
“Long and short, we can’t give you an exact time on that given all of the factors that go into accessing and also, you know, taking, ensuring that we utilize the vaccine once it is in-country. Hence our advocacy and our reminder that just getting the vaccine in-country is not enough. We have to get our people vaccinated if we are going to stem the tide of COVID-19.”