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Vaccine supplies sufficient for now, says Tufton


Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says there could be a fallout in the schedule for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the island over the next month and a half, but is assuring that there are sufficient supplies on hand for now to continue with the inoculation programme.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing Friday to announce a national vaccination blitz set for the National Arena in Kingston today, Dr Tufton said notwithstanding the equity which countries are supposed to benefit from under the COVAX facility, the countries that make vaccines have taken a position to provide for their populations first.

“In many cases that means them restricting exports. Vaccine nationalism is real, and it does undermine the concept of vaccine equity which is something COVAX was intended to achieve but now has become a victim of because it can’t get the supplies. We could see some fallout in terms of late delivery, based on this posture,” the minister stated.

He said there are enough doses to last up to another three weeks, before the end of which another 26,000 doses should arrive under the COVAX arrangement. Dr Tufton added that over time the market should loosen up as new vaccines are approved.

“You will see additional brands coming on the market over the next month to six weeks and production going up,” he noted.

Tufton stressed that he did not foresee issues with people receiving their second dose. At the same time, he did not rule out that possibility.

“I don’t foresee us not being able to have the second dose, given that persons are given up to eight to 12 weeks for the second dose to be applied. I do think the market will adjust globally; I’m certainly hoping for that. There is always a possibility that it may not happen, but based on what is happening in those countries that are supplying, they are moving at a pace that we could see some freeing up [and] there is an expiry date to the vaccine too, so persons have to use it within a reasonable time. I don’t anticipate that, but if we are approaching that [situation] we will make it known to the public,” he said.

At the same time, he emphasised that even one dose of the vaccine does provide some level of protection.

“You would have already gained some advantage if you had one dose… so the fact that you’ve gotten one dose is better than not getting any. Even if you had a delay in getting the second, you’re still better off. But I do believe that we will get enough to get the second dose during the period of time that is allowed,” he said.

The ministry is targeting 1,000 people aged 75 and older for today’s vaccination blitz, slated for 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Individuals must have, and travel with, printed or electronic proof of their appointments, and can be accompanied by one person for assistance. There will be four entrance points manned by the security forces.

Since the national vaccination programme began, 33,642 doses were administered up to Thursday, exceeding the 11,440 target which was set. This is about 22 per cent of the target for the first month of the programme, a good indication of vaccine demand, Dr Tufton said.

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