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By Theresa Goodwin

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The Minister of Health has made the strongest appeal yet for nationals – especially young people – to get vaccinated, saying that over 20,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses currently on island will expire by the end of June if they are not used.

Sir Molwyn Joseph made the disclosure on state media Wednesday night, and emphasised that if the jabs go to waste, Antigua and Barbuda’s ability to secure future supplies will be negatively affected.

“All the doses we have on hand now will expire between the 27th and 30th of June. So, next month is a critical month for us and it is important for people to go to the centres to get either their first or second doses.

“Many of the people who have received their first will get their second dose in July when we get an additional supply of vaccines,” he said.

“If we do not have an uptake of those vaccines and we have any spoilage, it is going to make it very difficult for us to get vaccines in a timely basis in the future.

“One of the things they would look at when we go to negotiate for vaccines, is the fact that they were allowed to spoil. It is very important that we demonstrate that we understand the seriousness of being vaccinated and use up the supply.”

There has been a slow response to the second phase of the national vaccination programme, which the minister and other members of government attribute to a growing number of people promoting a naturopathic way of fighting the Covid-19 virus as opposed to taking a jab.

 According to Sir Molwyn, most of these individuals are promoting natural remedies which are not backed up by adequate research and are belittling the efforts of healthcare practitioners who are properly trained and have extensive background in vaccines and their importance.

“As leaders of this country, on both sides, we must tell the citizens that these people are doing great harm to the nation and we must be direct. The healthcare workers have toiled hard and we should appreciate their efforts,” he said.

The last report released by the Ministry of Health on May 25 revealed that 32,737 people have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 8,579 have received their second doses.

Sir Molwyn said that two additional vaccination sites will be opened as of Monday — one at the Jennings Primary School and the other at the All Saints Secondary School.

These new centres will operate from Mondays to Wednesdays. The other sites at the Multipurpose Cultural Centre, the Villa and the Glanvilles polyclinics, and the Precision Centre, will continue normal operations from 9am to 5pm from Mondays through Fridays.