By Orville Williams
The government announced yesterday that a preliminary decision has been reached to donate a portion of the Covid-19 vaccines currently on island and scheduled to expire at the end of this month.
After questions were raised on the matter in recent weeks, it was said that the primary focus was getting residents to make use of the time-sensitive opportunity and get vaccinated, with the ramped-up vaccine incentives playing a major role.
At that time, officials said that the end-of-month expiration date applied to nearly 6000 doses.
Flash forward to yesterday and the donation announcement coming from Cabinet Spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas.
“We’re still managing the equation…and accordingly, the Ministry has been given the go-ahead, that if they have made a determination that it is likely that any of the vaccines will come to expiration, we will be sooner or later obliged to make [them] a gift to a neighbouring CARICOM territory that is really in need of some additional vaccines.”
This will certainly be viewed as good news for the receiving country or countries, as well as agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), who have been urging countries to share vaccine doses with their neighbours in desperate need.
It is not yet known where exactly the vaccines will be headed or when, as the specifics of the donation were not disclosed during yesterday’s discussion.
Nicholas said, however, that the final decisions will likely not take too long to be reached, given the limited amount of time before the doses expire.
“I cannot yet say what the amount will be, or what time that decision will be made, but the equation is being managed within the confines of the Ministry of Health and the Health Minister will make that determination.
“I think it is fair to say [though] that we’re talking about a matter of days. Within the coming days – perhaps as early as Monday – the Minister of Health may make that determination. Again, the dual-factor equation is something that they’re working with, in terms of the number of persons who are coming forward for the vaccines and the date at which [the doses] expire.
“[The Health Minister] will make that determination within the coming days, so I think it’s a matter of days away and not another week.”
According to yesterday’s Covid-19 report from the Health Ministry, more than 35,000 people have taken a first vaccine dose and over 26,000 have gotten a second.