By Carlena Knight
Antigua and Barbuda received its outstanding batch of vaccines from COVAX yesterday afternoon.
Over the weekend, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) noted on its website that 16,800 AstraZeneca doses were in transit and expected to reach the country on Wednesday.
Those doses were received by Minister of Health Sir Molwyn Joseph at the VC Bird International Airport.
“This is the final shipment of the allocation of vaccines from the COVAX facility and, of course, I must recognise the important role played by the Pan American Health Organization in organising this and also COVAX itself.
“What this has done is to equip us now with vaccines to provide the second dose to all the people who have been vaccinated, so by the end of this phase, we are hoping to have 40,000 people vaccinated with the full course of vaccines,” Sir Molwyn said, as he highlighted the importance of this final shipment.
Antigua and Barbuda received 24,000 AstraZeneca doses in early April, having made payment for the vaccines last year.
The COVAX initiative has been hit with several delays due to vaccine hoarding and limited supplies from India, one of the main suppliers.
Just yesterday, the Director of PAHO, Dr Carissa Etienne, once again lamented issues with vaccine availability.
“The inequities in vaccine coverage is undeniable. Unfortunately, vaccine supply is concentrated enough to some nations while most of the world waits for doses to trickle down.
“Although Covid-19 vaccines are new, the story isn’t. Inequality has too often dictated who has the right to health. We can’t let this happen again. For us, we urgently need to ramp up access to vaccines in the Americas.
“While we need more doses everywhere, the countries at greatest risk where vaccines have been slowest to arrive and even where vulnerable populations have yet to be protected, these countries urgently need more vaccines,” Dr Etienne said.
Since vaccine distribution began under the COVAX facility, nearly 20 million doses have been delivered to countries across the Caribbean and Latin America.
According to the Ministry of Health in Antigua and Barbuda, almost 35,000 residents in Antigua and Barbuda have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while almost 23,000 second doses have been administered.