By Orville Williams
Residents who remain hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccines currently available on island may have a hard choice to make in the near future, following word that the vaccines manufactured by US pharmaceutical companies may not be available for purchase until at least 2022.
The vaccines manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer have received Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization (WHO) and are being used across the US in their mass vaccination campaign.
A full dosage of the latter two is said to provide over 90 percent protection against the original Covid-19 virus, in comparison to the AstraZeneca vaccine which reportedly provides just over 80 percent protection with the maximum time between the two doses.
In countries like Antigua and Barbuda that have had to acquire vaccines primarily through the COVAX facility, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the one being widely used in the public vaccination programme.
This has not come without concerns, after reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients of the AstraZeneca led some residents to question the use of that particular vaccine and others to shun it completely.
The Russian-manufactured Sputnik V is also on island, along with the China-made Sinopharm, and the country is set to receive some doses of the Pfizer vaccine as a donation from the US.
However, the Sputnik V and Sinopharm are yet to be introduced as an option for residents.
The government has previously acknowledged its willingness to purchase the US-manufactured vaccines once they become available, to appease the residents who are insistent on taking those, in favor of the ones that are available at this point.
However, according to Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US, the wait for US vaccines could be longer than previously anticipated.
“I know I’ve been negotiating with Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson on behalf of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda in Washington, [and] I can tell you that they’ve made it clear to me that all the vaccines they’ve produced have been committed to the countries that have already paid for them upfront. They can’t sell us any vaccines until January ,” he said.
The doses of the Sputnik V, Sinopharm and some AstraZeneca previously received were all via charitable donations, from the Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Dominican governments.
Sir Ronald acknowledged that – until the US vaccines become available for purchase – similar donations would have to suffice.
“We do have to look to China right now for vaccines. We have to hope as well that the Indian crisis alleviates somewhat, so that the Indian laboratories of AstraZeneca can start producing again. That gives us a further opportunity.
“In the meantime, what we are really doing is relying on [vaccine donations]. We’re relying on the United States to share its vaccines with us [and] we’re also relying on Canada to do that, but we must remember that [they] also have obligations to other countries that are asking for vaccines, too.”
Sir Ronald was speaking on the vaccine issues on Trinidad & Tobago’s TTT’s NOW programme. sto