By Carlena Knight
Around 125,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country today as a gift from India.
Of that sum, 40,000 doses will remain in Antigua and Barbuda and will be distributed around various centres identified by the government for their official roll to the public later today.
The remaining doses were flown yesterday to several OECS countries including Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia. Suriname will also receive doses from this shipment.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, along with Dr. K.J. Srinivasa, High Commissioner of India, received the consignment of doses of the vaccine in a special ceremony held at the VC Bird International Airport this morning.
High Commissioner Srinivasa speaking at the ceremony on Monday reiterated that with the arrival of these vaccines the bilateral relations with both countries continues to strengthen.
During this pandemic, the governments of India and Antigua and Barbuda have worked in partnership through the distribution of medicine and medical supplies.
In fact, India has extended an assistance of US$1 million to the government of Antigua and Barbuda for combating the Covid-19 pandemic. This assistance is aimed at improving health infrastructure and capacities in Antigua and Barbuda under a project called, “Strengthening national health capacities and reducing socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The same level of assistance has been offered to each CARICOM country.
Dr Srinivasa noted that this latest donation of the vaccines by the Indian government “will intensify the inoculation drive in Antigua and Barbuda which will help to save lives and bring the economy back to some normalcy.”
His sentiments were echoed by Health Minister Molwyn Joseph and Foreign Affairs Minister Chet Greene who both spoke briefly at the ceremony.
Both men along with PM Browne thanked the Indian government for their continuous support during this pandemic.
“I have to admit that this is easily one of the most notable acts of benevolence that we have seen within the last 100 years, so again, my commendations to Prime Minister Modi and his government. India has been very responsive to the needs of the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Browne said.
Browne also encouraged the public to get vaccinated.
“The only way to bring this virus under control and to reduce hospitalisations and death is to get vaccinated. We must all take the responsibility to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity so this is not just a personal decision to get vaccinated, and I want to appeal to everyone that when you ponder the decision as to whether or not to get vaccinated, you ought to understand that this is not just a personal choice because the impact of not getting vaccinated could undermine our achievement of getting herd immunity, which is a requirement to return to normalcy. Consider the consequences if you do not get vaccinated, consider the consequence or consequences for yourself. The possibility of being hospitalised, the possibility of dying, consider the national consequences of having additional curtailment of ours to socialise, consider the possibility of national lockdown and consider the job losses. I appeal to the people of Antigua and Barbuda to get vaccinated, to save lives and livelihoods,” Browne added.