Reports of a plan by Government to vaccinate visitors to the island from next month, was Thursday knocked by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which contends the Mia Mottley administration has failed to inform the country about the decision.
The DLP’s spokesperson on Health, Paul Gibson, queried how such a move would be possible with thousands of Barbadians still to be vaccinated.
Gibson, a pharmacist by profession, said he became aware of Government’s plan via articles in two international travel news websites – Travel Agent Central dated March 2, and Travel Off Path on March 1.
He questioned why the news had not been made public in Barbados. Both articles refer to releases from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) revealing a plan for vaccines to be given to visitors during April and May, he said.
Gibson said in a statement: “We have press briefings sometimes three times a week and not once were we given details about any plan to vaccinate visitors. We had to read about this in overseas travel magazines. Why is it that this Government continues to keep pertinent information away from taxpayers of this country? When the Prime Minister made mention of Barbadian donations to a vaccine fund why did she not share news of this plan?”
“In light of a rollout that is intended to reach at least 70 per cent – 80 per cent of the Barbadian population with the Oxford AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine, a proposal to vaccinate visitors without communicating to locals a clear methodology is a concern.”
Gibson warned Government runs the risk of overwhelming the health system.
He said: “How can visitor vaccination begin April 2021 against the backdrop of first shots for Barbadians still being completed in March 2021? Realistically, vaccinations of visitors can only begin after June 2021 given the 12-week interval prescribed between initial vaccination and the booster shot. Our health systems may again become overwhelmed.”
He maintained that Government’s resources would be better served by vaccinating the “largest possible local demographic” in an effort to reach herd immunity.
He asked Government to disclose who would foot the bill for vaccinating visitors, how many visitors would be expected to pay for the vaccine, if any, along with the number of visitors expected to be vaccinated.
Gibson suggested that vaccinating short-stay visitors who would not be in Barbados long enough to receive their second shot would not help health authorities in their fight against COVID-19 locally.
He also called for additional information to be provided related to the vaccination programme, saying: “Given that information on this critical matter is limited in our frequent press briefings can we have a mid-vaccine rollout dashboard provided? This mid vaccine dashboard can be related to the number of Barbadians that have received their primary shot, broken down by gender, age, comorbidities, disabled and other vulnerable groups. Also, it can provide a percentage of the expected benchmark required for herd immunity.”
Government’s rollout of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, which began three weeks ago, has seen over 40,000 persons being vaccinated thus far. (RB)