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Vaccines from China and Russia could arrive on the island within days, once approved by the Antigua & Barbuda Pharmacy Council, according to Government Chief of Staff Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst.

“Just so long as the air freight is available or some sort of air transport, we are speaking about days once the council has approved it,” said Hurst.

“The number we asked of the Chinese is 100,000 and if that arrives, then we barely have to do any more begging, sorry, soliciting,” he added.

The government is currently facing the prospect of having to halt the public vaccination process once 20,000 persons have received their first dose. The pause may be required as only 40,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been received to date, and enough doses must be saved to ensure everyone receives two doses of the same vaccine.

Further doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are expected through COVAX, but Hurst said despite promises that the vaccines will arrive soon, they are yet to receive a confirmation on a precise date. The government is also seeking to purchase further doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India but also has no date on when the doses can be secured.

The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and others.

The Antigua & Barbuda Pharmacy Council is yet to approve any Chinese or Russian vaccines.

“It is just that there is a lot of material for the Pharmacy Council to wade through…each and everyone sitting on the council will have an opportunity to share his or her findings before a final decision is announced by the Chairman,” said Hurst.

Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal. It has also been deemed to be safe – and offer complete protection against hospitalisation and death.

The vaccine was initially met with some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.

But scientists said its benefit has now been demonstrated. It joins the ranks of proven vaccines alongside Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen.

The Sputnik vaccine works in a similar way to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab developed in the UK, and the Janssen vaccine developed in Belgium. It uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.

Safely exposing the body to part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognise the threat and learn to fight it off, without risking becoming ill.

After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies specially tailored to the coronavirus. This means the immune system is primed to fight coronavirus when if it encounters it for real.

It can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees) making it easier to transport and store.

China has vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm already making their way abroad. Read more about the Chinese vaccines at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-55212787