NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes said while an effective vaccination program is critical to see “any kind of immunity” against the coronavirus in The Bahamas, doses ought not to be wasted.
She suggested that once frontline and healthcare workers have the vaccine, any remaining doses should be “administered”.
It has yet to be announced whether any COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in The Bahamas.
The Ministry of Health said yesterday it has been proactive in securing mechanisms that will give the Bahamian people access to the vaccine.
When asked, Forbes deferred to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen for an official update on the vaccine’s arrival.
“I don’t have that official or projected date,” she said.
Forbes was also asked whether the vaccine, once in country, should be offered widely to inoculate Bahamians faster.
“What I would say to you about vaccines and vaccinations, vaccination is an important part of the strategy against COVID-19, but having vaccines available is not the same as getting people vaccinated or vaccinations,” she told Eyewitness News.
“You need vaccinations and an effective vaccination program to see any kind of immunity against an infectious disease, usually.
“And so, there really does need to be a strategy, vaccination rollout programs, and it appears that there could be gaps when we are watching the international news about having available vaccines, but actually having the vaccine uptake and accessibility.
“So, that has to be an important part of the strategy in terms of how you roll out the vaccination; who is going to get the vaccination and then how you don’t waste doses because, remember, there are a certain number of doses per vial, and it’s only going to be good, for lack of a better term, for a short period of time.
“It would be good if those doses can be administered and not wasted.
“All of those things need to be looked at, and so, to the best of my knowledge, say there are five doses in a vial — well, if two were given to frontline healthcare workers, who represent the most at-risk, and there are three doses remaining, it wouldn’t be good to discard them.
“You want to use those, and so, maybe that’s why they got expanded outside of the two other groups, based upon my understanding of what happened there.”
In an opinion column published on January 3, former US Food and Drug Association Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called on the federal government to expand the vaccination program to help vaccinate all Americans.
The US aimed to vaccinate over 20 million Americans by the end of 2020.
It fell far short of that goal and managed to vaccinate over four million people in the US.
Gottlieb said sticking to the dosing schedule is essential, but supply has been expanding and the production processes have been proven.
“Some of the future supply can be given as second doses in those being vaccinated today,” he wrote.
“The very small possibility that a production snafu could delay second shots seems a reasonable risk to take.”
The Bahamas government has maintained vaccination will be voluntary.
On Tuesday, Minister of Health Renward Wells suggested the government was in discussions about making the vaccine mandatory for children attending school, noting that “there’s a list of vaccines already that folks take in order to go to school”.
However, the Ministry of Health said in a statement yesterday that no one under the age of 18, including children, will be administered the vaccine in The Bahamas until the World Health Organization and scientific evidence suggest it is safe to do so.