LIGHT ON THE HORIZON?: Health minister says herd immunity could occur by summer

LIGHT ON THE HORIZON?: Health minister says herd immunity could occur by summer

Wells concerned about vaccine hoarding among other countries

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Renward Wells suggested yesterday that The Bahamas could reach herd immunity with COVID-19 once the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations and supplies hold.

Herd immunity thresholds for the virus stand between 70 and 80 percent, though these remain estimates.

Outside the Churchill Building, Wells said based on the number of infected, “a lot of Bahamians have been exposed” to the virus.

Minister of Health Renward Wells. (FILE PHOTO)

“I do believe by the time we have enter the summer that The Bahamas will have entered and we would have reached our desired herd immunity, which means that the country will be able to move in a more positive direction,” he said.

“I think the prime minister sort of intimated and signaled that when he said those persons who are vaccinated, you know, you can all get together in a restaurant and not have cause for concern.”

The European commissioner has said Europe could reach COVID-19 herd immunity by July.

This week, US President Joe Biden said the US will have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May, and analysis of federal COVID-19 data suggests herd immunity is not far behind.

The Bahamas is expected to receive over 100,000 doses of the vaccine — 33,000-plus before the end of this month and the remainder before the end of May.

The government reiterated efforts are underway to acquire more doses.

The Bahamas received a donation of 20,000 AstraZeneca doses from India earlier this month.

Nearly 9,000 people have contracted the virus, with an unknown number of people who have been exposed or infected and were asymptomatic.

In September, the government made a down payment of $250,000 to the COVAX Facility for the vaccine.

According to Wells, when the allotment of the vaccines arrives, the government will pay the balance of the $2 million to the World Health Organization.

Wells was asked about concerns of vaccine hoarding among developed countries.

He said there is cause for concern as there is supposed to be “global solidarity”.

However, the minister maintained discussions are ongoing at a global leadership level to bring about more “fair and equitable distribution of vaccines”.

“I think the whole case of AstraZeneca over the past six weeks has been interesting,” Wells said.

“First, the major countries — the rich ones — complained that they weren’t getting enough doses.

“Then they said AstraZeneca didn’t work over 65, remember?

“Then we had to come back and they said: ‘Well, the studies say it works over 65.’

“Then there was the issue of some European countries holding onto the vaccines that were shipped to them en route to other countries.

“Then we heard the whole issue of all of a sudden AstraZeneca is a clotting problem, which we have moved beyond, and now the American study that was just released has sort of put to bed all of the concerns.”

According to studies, AstraZeneca has a 79 percent efficacy rate against COVID-19.

Wells said: “We are in the process of ensuring we do get those vaccines and I do believe that as we move forward in this whole process, we are going to see a more fair and equitable distribution of vaccines among countries.”

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.