While the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been the first to be administered to Barbadians, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley indicated that Government was looking at procuring other brands of COVID-19 vaccines for its citizens.
Those being considered include the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the United States, as well as the Russia developed Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.
Ms. Mottley was responding to a question posed by the media about the arrival of the next shipment of vaccines, during a press briefing last night which followed a Social Partnership meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The first phase of the National Vaccination Programme for COVID-19 ended last week. It saw over 63,000 people vaccinated with the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The second doses are to be administered from April 17.
While Ms. Mottley declined to give an exact timeline for the arrival of the next batch of vaccines through the COVAX facility, she said 33,000 doses were expected in the first shipment.
“I’m confident that at some point in the next few weeks we will have access to some. As to the exact day, I’m not even going there….I am not going there because nobody expected a ship to lock up the Suez Canal, for almost a week, and we’re learning that there are too many variables that can easily disrupt the supply and logistics chain,” she stated.
The Prime Minister disclosed that Barbados was also in line to receive approximately 60,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the African Medical Supplies platform. She explained that the African Union signed a contract with Johnson & Johnson for the provision of 220 million doses.
As the former CARICOM chairman, Ms. Mottley said she would have negotiated last year, for the Caribbean Community to have access to medical supplies and vaccines via that platform. About 1.8 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is to be allocated to CARICOM member countries.
She also shared that China had pledged to donate 30,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine to Barbados with more available for purchase.
Ms. Mottley pointed out that once that vaccine was approved by the Scientific Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) which advises the World Health Organization on vaccines and immunisations, then it would be approved for use locally.
Additionally, Prime Minister Mottley said that while the Sputnik V had not yet been approved by the WHO, it had received favourable reviews in one of the “pre-eminent” medical publications, the Lancet Journal. Moreover, she noted that it was currently being considered for use in Europe.
She also disclosed that following “an excellent” meeting with the President of Cuba, the vaccine that country has under development could also be added to the list.
“So short answer, the immediate one is AstraZeneca, but we do anticipate that Johnson & Johnson could be part of our mix. We do anticipate that once Sinopharm and Sputnik are approved that they can also be part of the mix. And, we probably will have more than enough AstraZeneca, as I said, to be able to deal with ourselves as well as to ensure that we wait and see what happens, of course, with persons under 18 and [those aged]16 to 18. I know that they’re working on something that probably won’t be available before the end of summer, with respect to that age group,” Ms. Mottley stated.