Govt leaning toward making COVID-19 vaccine free

Govt leaning toward making COVID-19 vaccine free
(FILE PHOTO)

Wells says Cabinet will discuss the issue

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government may follow suit with other jurisdictions offering its citizenry coronavirus vaccines free of charge.

The United States, Japan, Bangladesh and Bihar, India, among others have announced plans to provide the vaccine for the virus without cost.

In response to questions from the media as to whether the same will be offered in The Bahamas, Minister of Health Renward Wells said: “Obviously that is going to have to be a Cabinet decision.

“It is something that is under consideration, but we will get back to the Bahamian people.

“I believe now the government gives flu vaccines free of charge, and even in the government clinics a mum goes and takes her child, there is no cost for it, polio and smallpox and all of the other vaccines that the government gives. Those are free of charge in the polyclinics.

“And so, we will look to that issue to see whether or not we continue that process in regards to COVID. More than likely it may end up being that, but again, I will get back to you on that.”

Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford coronavirus vaccines have shown over 90 percent efficacy in studies.

Moderna is awaiting US and European approval for it to be recommended for widespread use.

Pfizer has applied for the same approval in the United States.

Regulators in the United Kingdom continue to review the AstraZenca and Oxford University vaccine for emergency approval.

According to respective companies reporting to the World Health Organization, the AstraZeneca vaccine could cost around $4 a dose compared to the $20 for Pfizer’s vaccine and $33 for Moderna’s.

The United Kingdom has pre-ordered doses of all three vaccines, though the vast majority of the order comprises of the locally-produced AztraZeneca Oxford vaccine.

The UK’s new minister responsible for vaccine rollout, Nadhim Zahawi, has said the vaccination would not be compulsory.

Wells repeated yesterday that no one will be made to take a vaccine once one becomes available.

Wells has said the government will source a COVID vaccine through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

But the minister said the government reserves the right to go directly to the manufacturer for the respective vaccines when available, and if available it will do so to acquire more doses.

PAHO has encouraged countries in the region to “build trust” on an approved vaccine and is encouraging countries to dispel misinformation, insisting people’s perception of an available vaccine could “cost lives”.

The facility comprises 186 countries.

It aims to deploy at least two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.

The Bahamas is expected to receive 80,000 doses at a cost of $1.6 million in the first tranche.

In September, the government invested $250,000 as a down payment for the vaccine.