Mass vaccinations begin Friday, says CMO

(Barbados Today) – Mass immunization against COVID-19 is to begin in earnest at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has told Barbados TODAY.

The two-dose Oxford AstraZeneca jab is to be administered in four phases and follows the limited rollout of the almost 100,000 doses of the vaccine over the past few days. The initial doses targetted key personnel who are leading the vaccination campaign, teams conducting the exercise and the medical personnel at the Harrison’s Point coronavirus hospital.

Dr George said: “We did Harrison’s Point today and we are not going to rest until all the frontline persons are immunized based on the number of vaccines [available]. I do not know how many were done today. They also have to do a lot with the teams. We have identified up to 36 teams to do this work and the teams need to be vaccinated.”

He sought to make clear that a day has to be set aside for the teams to be vaccinated, “cause we certainly don’t want the teams not to be vaccinated and [still] interacting with people”.

The first phase of vaccination includes “frontline health, frontline non-health and other special groups like Cabinet and so on”, according to the Chief Medical Officer,

Phase two is people over the age of 65, to whom Dr George said the health ministry wants to give “priority because AstraZeneca is very good for people who are over the age of 65”.

In phase three, the vaccine will be given to people with non-communicable diseases, he said, followed by the “working population” in the fourth phase, “who are between the ages of 18 and 64 who would probably have a stronger immune system if they were to be affected by COVID”.

“The intention is to vaccinate up to 70 or 80 per cent of the population and that will achieve herd immunity. But as I said it is a process and the process starts tomorrow in earnest,” said Dr George.

No details were immediately available on when each phase of the vaccination process is to begin.

Of the 100,000 doses that arrived here from India on Tuesday, about several thousand doses were donated to CARICOM neighbours, including Guyana.

About a quarter of another batch 100,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines is expected between mid-February and month-end, through the global COVAX initiative of which low and middle-income countries like Barbados are members. The final shipment from this allocation is expected no later than June, according to the COVAX coalition’s notice to Government. (EJ)

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