Wells: Deployment of vaccines budgeted at $4.5 million

Wells: Deployment of vaccines budgeted at $4.5 million

PM negotiating with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca directly for COVID-19 vaccine

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has budgeted nearly $4.5 million for the procurement and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the country, once one is chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO), said Minister of Health Renward Wells yesterday.

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

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Wells noted that the government is currently in direct negotiations with several international pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, who have produced COVID-19 vaccines.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis is reportedly leading the charge on that.

“We didn’t reach out to them; interestingly enough, they’ve reached out to us,” Wells said.

“We are doing our due diligence as a nation.”

The Bahamas is a part of the COVAX Facility convened by Gavi, CEPI and the 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.

Wells said the Ministry of Health has already developed a logistic, strategic plan to deploy the chosen vaccine in The Bahamas.

He explained that it will cost $1.6 million just to get the vaccine if it is the Pfizer vaccine.

“The overall plan calls for somewhere in the area of $4.5 million because we are going to have to be able to purchase the freezer equipment,” he said.

Wells noted that the Ministry of Works is currently trying to source the kind of equipment needed to store the virus in-country, which includes large freezers and small ones for transportation to the Family Islands. 

“We are intending that once we get the vaccines to be able to deploy to all islands at the same time quickly, so we are going to need freezers to all of our pop-up centers”, he added.

The health minister noted that cost also has to be included to rent aircraft and ensure there are enough vehicles deployed to the Family Islands.

He once again insisted that Bahamians will not be forced to take the vaccine, but underscored the importance of taking it.

“We want the Bahamian people to know that whenever it is we secure and procure the vaccine, we want them to take it,” he said.

“We are not going to be bringing anything in that’s going to have a deleterious effect on our people. We are not going to do that.

“We are not going to force a vaccine on anyone. If no Bahamian wants to take it, no Bahamian other than the prime minister and myself, then we will be the only two vaccinated because that is the policy position that the government has always held with all of its vaccines that they are voluntary.”

Wells said that while it will not be mandatory, vaccinations are necessary for the opening of the economy.

“For the Bahamian people, and for where we need to be as a nation, for the hope that is still resident in us as a people, we need the vaccine,” he added.

“…The only cure for COVID is herd immunity.”

Frontline workers, the elderly and people with non-communicable diseases are the first group of people who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.