By Carlena Knight
The end of May has been earmarked as the latest possible time for when the second and final shipment of vaccines will arrive in the country via the international COVAX scheme.
According to Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, the additional 16,000 doses coming from COVAX should be here within six weeks.
“We got the information from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). I was in a virtual meeting in which they participated … and they again assured us that no later than the end of May we will get the additional 16 thousand,” Joseph said.
The country’s first COVAX shipment arrived on island last week.
Those 24,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses are already being administered as the second phase of the public vaccination programme started on Tuesday.
Antigua and Barbuda is set to receive an overall total of 40,000 AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX initiative, which is being led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, among others.
Joseph further revealed that discussions are underway to acquire the German Pfizer vaccine as well.
“We had a very productive conference with them. They are supposed to get back to us with some specifics but the Pfizer arrangement takes a little longer and we do not anticipate that we will conclude discussions before July, August,” he revealed.
Joseph did not disclose a precise number of Pfizer doses the government hopes to receive.
Presently, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has received 1,000 doses of the Russian SputnikV vaccine. Those have not yet been administered to the public as the government awaits the approval of the local Pharmaceutical Council.
Discussions, Joseph mentioned, are still underway to acquire another batch of SputnikV as well as the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm.
Joseph estimates that by the end of April about 100,000 vaccines will be in the country from these channels.
“When you look at it, based on what we have already collected and what is promised in terms of the Sputnik and the Sinopharm, we are looking at about 100,000 vaccines in Antigua and Barbuda by the end of April,” Joseph shared.
Meanwhile, it was a relatively slow day at some of the public vaccination sites on day one of the recommencement of the national rollout.
When Observer media arrived on the scene at the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre late Tuesday afternoon, the number of persons there was quite low but, according to site manager Larissa Barnes, figures were on a par with when the first public phase got underway on March 1.
“Compared to the first time, the numbers are comparable because it’s new, it’s just reopened, so persons may not be aware that the centres have reopened … We expect to see an increase once the public becomes more aware that the centres are open,” said Barnes.
She said operations at the centre ran more smoothly than previous occasions and applauded her team for addressing some of the challenges.
“We had one slight issue with the internet but that was resolved fairly quickly. In terms of crowd control, we are still in a Covid environment so we have to maintain social distancing and so we put extra provisions in place for that to happen. Obviously, the last time the turnout was very overwhelming and so we had to put emphasis on the crowd control,” she explained.
Persons who have not yet been vaccinated can go to one of the public vaccination sites – the Villa Polyclinic, Glanvilles Polyclinic, Multipurpose Cultural Centre or the Precision Centre – from Mondays to Thursdays from 9am to 3pm.
A valid government ID will be required.