By Kadeem Joseph
The minister of health has given a new timeline for the arrival of vaccines to the nation’s shores via the World Health Organization’s Covax facility.
Under the scheme, set up to provide affordable Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries across the world, Antigua and Barbuda is expected to receive 40,800 doses, with the first allotment of 14,400 doses previously expected to arrive on island by the end of March.
On March 15, in a televised address, Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph had said, “The government has been notified that a shipment of the first Covax allocation of 14,400 doses will arrive in Antigua by the end of this month.”
His comments then were bolstered by Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst who noted that the vaccines will be at the country’s “doorstep” by Monday of this week.
However, during an interview yesterday, Minister Joseph said these vaccines are now expected “between now and the 12th of next month [April]” based on a letter of confirmation received last week from the distributing body.
The latest delay comes amid growing concern about the Covax facility and its ability to provide promised vaccines to the countries that have subscribed to the programme.
India, one of two nations to manufacture Oxford-AstraZeneca shots for the Covax scheme, has seen growing social and political fallout with residents there criticising the government for not prioritising its own people. This has led to a suspension of exports.
Korea is the second country that was announced as a contributor to the facility.
Joseph said while the new shipment date was not a guarantee, “the mere fact that they have put it [the delivery date] in writing and confirmed should give the public some level of comfort”.
The minister said that the first appointment for the administration of a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is expected in early May and he is “confident” that the government will get additional doses by then.
The Pan American Health Organization has also assured that the Covax facility remains a viable option through which countries can acquire much-needed Covid-19 jabs.