By Kadeem Joseph
Antigua and Barbuda and several other Caribbean countries that have signed agreements with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covax Facility were recently informed of the estimated dose allocations for the first phase of vaccine delivery in the region.
The announcement is the latest update as countries, including the twin island state, continue to battle a recent spike in Covid-19 cases. This phase of distribution is expected to span the first and second quarters of 2021.
According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), a letter was sent to each Minister of Health advising that “vaccines will be delivered effective mid to late February with 357,600 doses of the AstraZeneca AZD1222 vaccine, to Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines”.
The suggested distribution is based on current discussions on the estimated availability of these lifesaving doses from manufacturers.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is still under review by WHO for emergency use approval (EUL), which is expected to occur in the next few days.
The vaccine was named by the Ministry of Health as one of the three preferred vaccines for Antigua and Barbuda, with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines also making the list.
According to the Covax press statement, it is estimated that around 35.3 million doses will be arriving in the Americas in this first stage.
“With more than 45 million confirmed cases and more than one million deaths, countries and territories throughout the Americas, particularly the poorest among them, are experiencing an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis,” Director of PAHO Dr Carissa Etienne said. “The start of vaccine delivery through the COVAX mechanism is a hopeful step in the fight against this virus and PAHO is proud to facilitate an effort that is urgently needed for our region.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is still under review by the WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL), but the approval is expected in the coming days.
The inoculation is given in two doses, with the second administered four to 12 weeks.
PAHO is appealing to members states “to take necessary actions in the roll-out and Covid-19 vaccination plans to ensure timely procurement and delivery of the vaccines. Furthermore, the timing of the delivery of doses is subject to PAHO establishing supply agreements with the manufacturers”.
The organisation said that the next steps to access the allocation include Antigua and Barbuda and other countries having the necessary indemnity and liability frameworks, including the required legislations in place, in order to complete an agreement directly with AstraZeneca.
PAHO also stressed that the preparatory work and arrangements are important to ensure a successful introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.
The PAHO Representative to Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr Yitades Gebre, is also encouraging members under the Covax facility to take the required steps as quickly as possible, aiming for no later than the end of February to avoid idle doses and potential delays in receiving these vaccines through the Facility.
Observer was reliably informed that Antigua and Barbuda’s Health officials will be addressing the development soon.