Health minister assures “due diligence” in selection of COVID-19 vaccine for The Bahamas

Health minister assures “due diligence” in selection of COVID-19 vaccine for The Bahamas

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government will do its due diligence in deciding a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for The Bahamas, assured Minister of Health Renward Wells yesterday.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Wells was asked whether the government intends to conduct an independent evaluation of the vaccine chosen before distribution to the public.

“Obviously, any vaccine that The Bahamas government chooses is going to be one that we feel offers the most effective, safe deployment and benefit for the Bahamian people,” he said.

Minister of Health Renward Wells. (FILE PHOTO)

“We in this country in the Ministry of Health have been in the business of securing the health of the Bahamian people long before our independence.

“…The Bahamian people can be reassured that any vaccine that is decided on by the government of The Bahamas, that we are going to do our due diligence for the Bahamian people, offering them a safe and effective vaccine.

“And, again, it is still going to be up to the Bahamian people whether or not they want to take it.”

Wells’ comments come after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use authorization.

Former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has suggested that while The Bahamas relies on research from partner countries, there should still be a process where the country, as a sovereign nation, evaluates the data to determine that it is the right fit for The Bahamas.

Sands said this evaluation should include public health individuals, professionals from the medical and nursing community and important players in civil society.

The Bahamas is a part of the COVAX Facility convened by Gavi, CEPI and the World Health Organization (WHO), which will afford countries in the region the best opportunity to fast-track access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVAX Facility offers access to a basket of 15 possible vaccines.

The government has estimated the procurement and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the country, once one is chosen by the WHO, will cost $4.5 million.

A down payment of $250,000 has already been paid for 80,000 doses of the vaccine — accounting for up to 20 percent of the country’s population.

Wells noted yesterday that even though The Bahamas will go through the WHO for its first set of vaccines, the government is also speaking directly with the various vaccine companies.