A concerted effort is underway to reach all residents of Antigua and Barbuda who are sixty-five years and older to have them vaccinated as protection against the COVID-19 disease by Friday of this week.
Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph said this is necessary in order to complete Phase One of the vaccination exercise slated for the end of the week. He explained that this age group was one of the key groups earmarked by the government because they account for most hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.
He further explained that all public vaccinations have ended; however, over the next few days efforts will be made to reach these seniors who may not have been reached previously.
“We believe we have an appreciable number of elderly to be vaccinated. What we have decided is to use our clinics and in each village the nurses will be making home visits to ensure that we identify all the elderly people and bring them to be vaccinated. This we hope to achieve by Friday,” he stated.
The minister stressed the importance of health workers reaching these individuals as it is the government’s intention to have as many inoculated as soon as possible. Additionally, health workers will also visit private nursing homes to ensure that the residents are also vaccinated.
“The most important group in the first phase is those who are sixty-five years and older and those with comorbidities or underlying health conditions. I am confident that we will succeed in this exercise with this group,” he noted.
Sir Molwyn wants family members to ensure that their seniors are vaccinated, noting that they can call the hotline or reach out to health workers by other means in order to get it done.
Under Phase One of the vaccination programme, some twenty-seven thousand people will be vaccinated. That leaves a total of thirteen thousand vaccines remaining from the forty thousand donated by India.
According to the minister, the government feels fairly confident of a shipment of fourteen thousand, eight hundred doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arriving at the end of the month.
That amount and the remaining thirteen thousand doses will be kept by the government for the application of the second dose to those individuals who were vaccinated in Phase One.
“In the second phase, we expect to have no less than one hundred thousand vaccines to be distributed; fifty per cent or fifty thousand will be administered as the first dose and the other fifty thousand will be held for the second dose which will be distributed in the third phase.
“The third and final phase of distribution, will be exclusively for the administering of the second dose for all individuals who would have been vaccinated previously. This phase is expected to begin in May and end in June,” he added.
Sir Molwyn reassured the public that there will not be any mixing of vaccines, meaning anyone who receives the AstraZeneca vaccine for the first dose will receive the same branded vaccine for the second dose.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective weapons in fighting this dreadful pandemic. It has been established that all of the vaccines prevent hospitalizations and deaths. I therefore implore you to avail yourselves at the earliest opportunity to be vaccinated. It is a decision that is in the best interest of yourself, your family and your community,” he urged all residents.