By Orville Williams
Despite the dramatic slowdown of the public vaccination programme, Antigua and Barbuda remains among the countries with the highest vaccination rates for Covid-19, with 40% of the population already inoculated.
The programme kicked off earlier in March, following the receipt of some AstraZeneca doses and since then, more than 30,000 people have been fully inoculated, while nearly 7,000 have received a first vaccine dose.
According to Our World in Data, a leading research and data gathering platform, those figures place the twin-island state 21st among all “countries that report their breakdown of doses administered by first and second doses in absolute numbers”.
Things look even better from a regional standpoint, as the country sits 10th among Caribbean countries, behind the likes of the Cayman Islands – the global leader – Aruba, Bermuda, Anguilla, Sint Maarten, Curacao, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and St Kitts & Nevis.
This placement, though commendable, could arguably be much better if the health authorities were not battling such a high level of vaccine hesitancy.
The numbers raced up within the first couple weeks of the vaccination programme, but have moved ever so slowly over the past couple of months. Along with a simmering ‘antivaxx’ sentiment, health officials have blamed the falloff in vaccine education as one of the reasons for the decline in vaccinations.
The government has made efforts to combat the hesitancy, in the form of vaccine incentives, but has lately moved to implement stricter measures to urge the population forward.
It was also hoped that widening the vaccine options available to the public would help and that has resulted in the procurement of not only AstraZeneca doses, but also Sinopharm, Sputnik V and most recently, Pfizer.
The Pfizer vaccines are yet to be rolled out to the entire population and the government has indicated that those doses – part of a donation to the region by the US administration – will be used exclusively for children, at least in the initial stage.
Adults waiting for this vaccine have been given a lifeline though, as the Health Ministry has opened a ‘pre-registration’ hotline for persons to make their interest known.
According to the Ministry, they have already been receiving significant interest in this regard, in only a matter of days.
With four vaccines available for use and the country reaching 40% in just over five months, the goal of reaching herd immunity could be realized sooner than many probably expect.