By Orville Williams
The Ministry of Health has suspended the first dose inoculation of residents using the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, amid concerns over when additional doses will arrive from the United States.
Until that time, the Health Ministry is urging those eligible for the second dose Pfizer vaccine to receive it at the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Center from 9 am to 4 pm, Mondays through Fridays, and also at the American University of Antigua this Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.
It also assures that the administration of Pfizer first doses will resume once more doses arrive on the island.
In August, Antigua and Barbuda received over 17,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine as part of a wider commitment from the US to donate 5.5 million doses to Caricom member states. Those doses were used primarily for children 12 to 17 years old, but also for adults who desired that particular brand of vaccine.
With the number of doses in supply now dwindling, the Ministry announced that effective yesterday, “only second doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines will be administered to adults and children…to ensure that persons who have already received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine get their second dose”.
The Ministry’s media statement went on to advise that the decision was taken as the Antigua and Barbuda government anticipates the arrival of the second batch of Pfizer vaccines from the US.
It is not alone in that state of anticipation, however, with Jamaica in somewhat a predicament, having run out of Pfizer doses.
In that neighbouring island, the health authorities have had to extend the interval between first and second doses, as there simply aren’t any doses left to fulfil the second dose application at this time.
Though the recommended interval between the two doses is a maximum four weeks, many in that country have now gone more than six weeks without the second dose.
It appears Antigua and Barbuda is avoiding that type of situation for now, but there will be concerns about when the US will begin to deliver the second tranche of its commitment.
While similar uncertainty surrounded the first tranche prior to its delivery, there is a greater importance on the second tranche, to allow for the inoculation of more children and prospectively, those at an even younger age.
Pfizer is well on its way to getting approval for use of the vaccine in children aged five to 11 and the Antigua and Barbuda government has already indicated it would consider that approach for children in the twin-island state, once the vaccine gets the necessary approval.