Health minister says vulnerable groups, healthcare workers will be inoculated first
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has committed $2 million to inoculate at least 20 percent of The Bahamas’ population if and when an approved vaccine becomes available for COVID-19, Minister of Health Renward Wells announced yesterday.
Wells said the Pan American Health Organization will secure any potential COVID vaccine on The Bahamas’ behalf.
He said the World Health Organization required all countries seeking the vaccine to “put a down payment so to speak” to cover at least 20 percent of its population — around 80,000 people.
He said the Cabinet decided to move forward with that down payment.
“We do secure our vaccines through the WHO via PAHO,” the minister advised.
“And we are guaranteed to receive enough vaccines in the first tranche to vaccinate 20 percent of the population, which if you’re looking at 400,000 persons, is about 80,000 individuals.
“The overall cost is going to be somewhere in the area, perhaps $2 million initially.
“At the outset, what we will do is we will seek to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable, our healthcare workers; along those lines.
“But because there is such a demand for a potential COVID vaccine, and you understand that first-world countries — because their monies are long and deep — have the capacity to be able to purchase up front more so.
“But the World Health Organization is securing and ensuring that all countries have an opportunity to receive the vaccine, and there is a global agreement among all countries that we will receive at least 20 percent initially to secure our population.”
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne has said PAHO member-states, acting as a bloc, will benefit from technical expertise in securing and distributing vaccines swift, efficiently and equitably.
“We will also ensure the process is as inclusive as possible by allocating doses fairly among those countries participating,” she said.
According to the director, PAHO’ Revolving Fund for vaccines can be used as a “strategic asset” to buy and distribute vaccines for COVID-19 when they become available.
Etienne has also said while it is hoped a vaccine against COVID-19 will be developed in under two years, its availability in-country will not bring an immediate end to restrictive measures and resurgences of the virus.
Approximately 30 coronavirus vaccines are in the advance clinical trial stages, though health experts have yet to approve one that can be used to inoculate people against COVID-19.
More than 170 countries had agreed to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, aimed at ramping up the speed of vaccine development and securing doses for the global population to distribute to the vulnerable groups.