PM: “As more people become vaccinated, we will be able to relax restrictions”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Through the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) COVAX Facility, The Bahamas received its first tranche of 33,600 COVID-19 vaccines yesterday.
This new arrival shores up the nation’s supplies since it received 20,000 doses as a donation from India three weeks ago.
The Bahamas has now received 53,600 vaccines, with more than 7,000 people in-country receiving their first dose of the vaccine since the vaccination program rolled out on March 14.
According to PAHO, COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20 percent of the population to each participating country during 2021.
In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 percent and 2.6 percent of their population.
Suriname received its first COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility last Friday, while Guyana received its first shipment of vaccines through the COVAX mechanism on Monday.
During the handing over ceremony at Jet Aviation Nassau yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis noted that vaccination will save lives.
He said: “The life saved may be yours. As more people become vaccinated, we will be able to relax restrictions and see more of our family and friends. We will be able to open up our economy more and to get back to work.”
PAHO/WHO Country Representative for The Bahamas Dr Eldonna Boisson called the arrival of the vaccine doses in The Bahamas a historic milestone — the culmination of months of negotiations and a “level of commitment to global solidarity”.
According to Boisson, the remainder of doses — 67,200 — will arrive in The Bahamas in May.
She said that through COVAX, vaccine supply will steadily increase month-by-month, with approximately 280 million doses expected to arrive in Latin America and the Caribbean by the end of 2021.
Boisson said after six weeks of declining cases at the beginning of the year, infections have steadily risen since mid-February and deaths have also begun to reverse in trend.
There were more than 333,000 cases and 9,000 deaths in the Americas alone last weekend.
“These are worrying trends as we continue to see the impact of variants opening up societies and inequitable vaccine rollout,” Boisson said.
The Bahamas has yet to report a new COVID variant, but several variants of the virus have made their way to the Caribbean.
As of last Friday, 32 countries and territories in the Americas — including The Bahamas’ neighbors Turks and Caicos, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the US — had reported the presence of at least one of three “variants of concern” of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a new epidemiological update.
“We must continue to take the COVID-19 virus and pandemic seriously,” Boisson said.
“This is still a very active public health emergency.”
According to Boisson, PAHO has assisted The Bahamas in the development of its national vaccination program to ensure the population is inoculated in a sustainable and safe manner.
She said the organization continues to offer technical cooperation for vaccine procurement, delivery and deployment, as well as distribution guidance documents and training.
But Boisson pointed out that vaccine supplies remain limited and it will be several months before countries can rely on vaccines alone to control the virus.
Although the scale-up of vaccine production has begun, the PAHO representative underscored that it is not enough and “we do not yet have the vaccines we need to protect everyone”.
She said: “It’s what happens when the whole world must rely on too few manufacturers.
“Our goal at this time must be to save as many lives as possible by prioritizing early doses for those who are at the highest risk of infection, hospitalization and death. We must also protect our health workers and reduce the strain on our health system.”
According to reports, India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, has reported 12 million COVID-19 cases, the most after the United States and Brazil. So far, it has exported 64 million vaccine doses, more than the 60.4 million inoculations conducted at home. The Indian government is under pressure to step up its domestic vaccine programme.