As Government prepares to roll out a massive vaccination campaign against COVID-19, Barbadians are being assured that vaccines are safe.
Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Omar Edwards, stated: “Next to clean water and sanitation, vaccines are among one of the foremost public health measures that saves lives.”
He added that this was the intention behind the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Barbados.
Speaking during a COVID-19 update and press conference this evening, Dr. Edwards said there were four vaccines available on the market – Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Sputnik V, and Oxford-AstraZeneca.
He added that while they were all “relatively safe” there was little incidence of reported severe allergic reactions with the Oxford-AstraZeneca, which Barbados is receiving.
“The effectiveness or the efficacy of these vaccines will vary, but all of these vaccines produce an efficacy above 60 per cent. So, what that translates to is, persons receiving the complete course of vaccination will be offered a measure of protection against severe disease should they contract COVID, and the subsequent complications of that.
“That also translates into the medical sense, in the form of reduced hospitalisations. So, this is what you want, an effective vaccine. You have decreased symptoms; you have decreased severe medical course, and the patient is more likely to survive. So, this is what we want at the end of the day, for the vaccine to save lives,” the Medical Officer of Health stressed.
He added that if “herd immunity” was achieved, it could result in a reduction of in-country transmission of COVID-19 overtime.
In responding to queries from some religious groups, he also explained that the vaccine did not contain any blood products, but looked at genetic materials which formed the basis of the immune response.
He explained that most vaccines created an antibody response to a particular pathogen. “What is new is how the process begins. For COVID-19 vaccines, the process begins with the delivery of genetic material. For the Oxford-AstraZeneca, we are looking at DNA….
“Once that is introduced into the cell it is incorporated into the protein making machinery, and will eventually lead to a complete immune response,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards noted that training for medical and nursing practitioners and other members of the teams involved in the vaccination campaign had already started across the public and private sectors and volunteer groups.
He explained that the training would provide those involved with background on COVID-19, the particular variants of concern, and on the types of vaccines that were available, particularly the Oxford-AstraZeneca.
The training will also cover the adverse effects of the vaccine, the observational period after it is received, the public health situation on the island, and logistics. “We are being cautious, and the training will also include the medical management of the entire process,” he said.