CARICOM searches for COVID-19 vaccines

Boxes of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are pictured in a refrigerator at a NHS mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Robertson House in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Britain on Jan. 11, 2021.
Joe Giddens/Pool via REUTERS//File

Caribbean Community governments appear to have left the daily management of the COVID-19 to medical professionals and have switched their focus to acquiring hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine with shipments lined up to arrive in several countries in the next month.

Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, among others, are all close to beginning mass vaccinations for those interested in being jabbed in the arms but community associate, Bermuda, is way ahead of the pack already immunizing 5,000 citizens with another 8,000 awaiting their turn Premier David Burt said this week. The prime minister was among those who have already received his.

As authorities await shipments from Cuba, India, China, the UK and the US, authorities across the region are expressing concern about lax compliance across the region relating to the wearing of masks, social distancing and assembling in large numbers blaming such poor attitudes and approaches for positive infection spikes in recent weeks, linking this mostly to post Christmas activities and revelry.

In the case of Barbados which until the past six weeks appears to have had the situation under control, the island was from Wednesday slipping into a 15-day lockdown of non essential services to help tame a spike that officials blame on non compliance across the spectrum of published regulations.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley said a dusk to dawn curfew will remain in effect during the period and businesses and entities not considered as nationally essential must shut their doors during what she called as “a national pause.” This is the island’s second lockdown in nine months.

“We need now to be able to spread the message to everyone. There are still too many people regrettably who are not wearing masks, there are still too many people who are gathering unnecessarily and I want to remind Barbadians that this thing is not playing, this thing is real and to that extent, I am asking every one of us to join the effort in being able to encourage persons in our communities, in our households,” she said in a national broadcast on Tuesday. “On Sunday, at midday, I am asking for everyone in this country to pause, literally pause, to pray and to reflect on what we must do to save our nation and to save our people.”

Suriname has also tightened up on overnight activities in the wake of 33 deaths in January compared to a mere five in December.

Meanwhile, Jamaica Minister of Health, Chris Tufton announced the imminent arrival of 900,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine later this month as authorities move to inoculate about 500,000 people 16 percent of the population in the first instance the Gleaner newspaper reported. The island’s death toll as of this week reached 352 from 15,800 cases.

Mottley also thanked India’s government for agreeing to send 50,000 doses in the coming weeks to Barbados following a request sent to New Delhi 12 days ago. “We have had commitments from the Government of India and we expect to receive very shortly the first supply for 50,000 persons which will be 100,000 vaccines and we hope to be able to start the deployment of that in the very near future.”

Nearby Guyana through Minister of Health,  Dr. Frank Anthony said the country will get about 120,000 doses from China and Astra Zeneca shortly as he listed frontline workers as among the first to receive jabs.

“We are making other arrangements to be able to acquire more vaccines, so we should have enough vaccines for the elderly and persons with co-morbidities. These arrangements haven’t been completed as yet, but we are very optimistic that we will have more vaccines for persons in those areas. When we complete the health workers and the elderly and people with co-morbidities, then we will go to the next level, which is other people in the population,” Anthony said.

Neighboring Suriname expects 79,200 doses of Astra Zeneca supplies by next month with Health Minister Amar Ramadhin saying that the country’s request “has been submitted to the WHO for approval and I recommend that we wait calmly for the results.”

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