PM says vaccination “trial run” set for this weekend, with full rollout to begin next week
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday heralded the arrival of 20,000 donated AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from India as the most “delightful and joyous day” of his life.
He assured that with the rollout of the government’s vaccine program by early next week, the nation can “truly see light at the end of the tunnel”.
A United Airlines carrier from India, via Newark, New Jersey, touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) around 11.30am with the donated vaccine doses.
The donated doses were expected to arrive on Sunday, but were delayed due to “logistical issues”, the prime minister advised during a national address on Sunday.
As he thanked Indian Ambassador Dr Jacob Anupama yesterday, Minnis said: “Today is the most delightful and joyous day of my life because now we can truly see light at the end of the tunnel where we can overcome this pandemic and get back to normal life, which I know you are all waiting for.”
He reiterated his gratitude for India’s donation to The Bahamas and its commitment to delivering vaccines throughout the region.
India is one of the largest manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Minnis continued: “We continue to use all avenues available to us to obtain the remainder of the vaccines, so we can inoculate our population as quickly as possible.”
Another 33,600 doses of AstraZeneca are expected to arrive through the COVAX Facility before the end of March.
The Bahamas is expected to secure more than 100,000 doses, for which the nation has made a down payment of $250,000, through the COVAX Facility.
The government has maintained vaccination will be voluntary.
A number of eastern Caribbean countries received vaccines from February 15 through March 1 and have long begun rollout out of their inoculation programs.
When asked about criticisms from some healthcare unions about being left out of the vaccination program and process, the prime minister said: “I think they are more concerned about rolling out the vaccine and getting the vaccines delivered into the arms of the Bahamian populous, so we can get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.
“This weekend they would run a trial run and next week our vaccines should be rolled out,” the prime minister said.
“We have completed the IT program to ensure the registration of individuals, so the entire system can be transparent and following the protocols and we would send our protocols to WHO (the World Health Organization) so that the entire world will be familiar with what we have done, so that there can be no possibility or question of anyone jumping the line or showing favoritism to this one or the next.
“It would be totally transparent and you would have that information available to you.”
As to vaccinations on the Family Islands, the prime minister said the National COVID-19 Committee will provide details on the full rollout of the program.
“I am in constant consultation with my representative and the chief medical officer,” he said.
“They are both a part of the committee, inclusive of the minister of health, and I am certain as they approach, they would keep you updated. Everything will be totally transparent and all information you want, you will receive.”
In its new guidelines on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said individuals who have been fully vaccinated can do “some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic”, including gathering without a mask with other vaccinated individuals.
In response, Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes said she expects local coronavirus measures to soon reflect the level of “flexibility” offered by those new guidelines.
Yesterday, the prime minister, the competent authority, concurred.
“Yes, I am in consultation again with my advisor, [Dr] Dahl-Regis, who is communicating with the entire committee,” Minnis said.
“We have been following the science throughout this entire pandemic. We were advised and we were guided by the science and the professionals, and we would, again, continue to follow those guidelines.”