Prime Minister Gaston Browne has committed to becoming the first person to take a Covid-19 vaccine when it arrives in the country.
Browne made the announcement as he called on residents not to shy away from the vaccine which government hopes will become available early next year.
“I will avail myself as the first recipient of the vaccine in order to encourage Antiguans and Barbudans to do likewise,” he stated.
Some of the vaccines being developed – including the Pfizer one which is touted as a front runner – are said to have unpleasant side effects to include sore arms, headaches and muscle pain.
Browne has however said that the high percentage of success of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a positive development. It showed a 90 percent efficacy rate in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection.
The PM said immunisation would help keep residents safer.
“If other countries are doing it and then they normalise, then let’s say the majority of our population were to resist the vaccine and people remain vulnerable to Covid, then what would happen is that we may see an increase in the prevalence of Covid cases and far more fatalities.
“The deaths resulting from that may be far greater than the downside risk of taking a vaccine,” he purported.
Twenty thousand vials of the vaccine are due to come to Antigua and Barbuda. It is not yet known which vaccine it will be.
But Browne is predicting that at least 70 percent of the population will volunteer to have it.
Based on current projections, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Their vaccine requires two doses per person.
The PM said he hopes the availability of a vaccine will “resume some semblance of normalcy here”.
Meanwhile, one of the country’s leading medical professionals, Dr Dwayne “Baba” Thwaites, has attempted to calm public fears.
Many residents are apprehensive, noting the vaccine’s fast development, coupled with the limited knowledge of the virus.
Dr Thwaites sought to ease those apprehensions, by comparing other vaccines developed to treat diseases in the past.
“I look at everybody and I laugh because people are talking ‘I’m not taking the vaccine, I’m not doing it’. We’ve been vaccinating everybody all our lives and not only that, we’ve seen it work in the world. When polio was kicking up when arwe min young, nobody have polio now.
“The BCG injection we all have that…everyone of arwe have that as kids. You come up you get your stuff and you gone school. We know it works. It worked for TB. It worked for polio. It worked for chickenpox,” he remarked.
Dr Thwaites urged persons to try to adjust their mindset, saying it is likely everyone will need to be vaccinated.
He also dismissed some of the conspiracy theories floating around, suggesting they are largely illogical.
“I hear they say they gon put a chip in you when they give you the vaccination. How you gon put a chip in something that’s soluble and dissolvable. When you put it inside you it gets hard and forms a microchip?” the medical practitioner queried.