Barbados is well stocked with supplies of the three main COVID-19 vaccines in use but the campaign to inoculate high school children has barely scratched the surface as only one in four high school children has received their first dose of the Pfizer jab, according to one campaign coordinator.
As the new school year opened to all-online classes amid a nationwide surge of infections on Monday, Co-coordinator of the National Vaccination Programme, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, told a news briefing that 6,436 children have so far received the first of two doses, with 2,454 between the ages of 12 and 14, and 3,982 between the ages of 15 and 18.
“But given that it is some 24,000 children in all that will fall under this age group based on population growth trends, we are just scraping the barrel at this point,” she said.
Dr Ferdinand said the Ministry of Health will be doing stock-taking of its vaccine stores “later this week” but said more than half remain of the 70,000 Pfizer doses donated by the United States which are earmarked for younger Barbadians.
“We also have plenty of AstraZeneca vaccines and the Sinopharm as well,” she added. “Now some of the Pfizer vaccines will be expiring at the end of November, while we have some AstraZeneca that will expire at the end of October and some at the end of December. The Sinopharm has a longer expiry date of May 2023, so we have the whole of next year and up to the middle of 2023 with that one. So we have plenty of vaccines that we can offer at all of our sites, both first and second doses.”
Regarding what would happen if all the stocks of the vaccines were not used up, Dr. Ferdinand said: “We will be looking at the trends, but if we do not have enough people coming forward we may have to make suggestions to the Prime Minister on the way forward, such as possibly sending them on to our neighbours.”
The retired chief medical officer stated that she believed Barbados could meet the target set by Prime Minister Mottley of delivering 50,000 shots in arms in five weeks.
She outlined how many people were vaccinated over the weekend as mobile units ventured into several communities.
Dr Ferdinand said: “I think we can reach the 10,000 people a week target and I think our Information Coordinator can galvanize the people and get them riled up to take it. We are seeing increasing deaths, more people going up to Harrison Point and more people going into isolation.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know we have a lot of COVID around and one thing we can use to protect ourselves is the vaccine. I have had mine since February and I have not had any weird side effects; the vaccines are safe and they work. If you have not made up your mind, discuss it with others who know what they are saying and don’t just follow idle chat on social media and so on.”
Outlining the work of the vaccination campaign over the weekend, Dr Ferdinand told journalists: “On Saturday we gave 875 people their first dose: 671 people took the Pfizer shot, while 185 took the AstraZeneca and 19 took Sinopharm. That day, 262 people received their second shots as well.
“On Sunday, we vaccinated 890 people in total; 664 with the first dose, and the other 226 got their second dose. Yes, it was under 1,000 a day but we are trying to ramp up our efforts. Our turnouts have been quite good so far but we are hoping to get even more people coming out next weekend.” (DH)