COVID-19 update and press conference – February 10, 2021. (PMO)

Government will continue to go up against large and developed countries in its quest to secure additional COVID-19 vaccines for the people of Barbados.

Chair of the COVID-19 Health Communications Team, Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson gave this assurance this evening, as the country prepares to begin its national vaccination campaign from tomorrow with the island’s leaders and frontline workers among the first to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ambassador Thompson explained that there was competition in the global marketplace for the vaccine, and Barbados was but a small island developing state with a “tiny population the size of a small town in the United States”.

“There are countries with wealth and power and large populations getting vaccine products, and they can order.  The EU can order millions of vaccines. Africa can order millions of vaccines. Other countries that have populations that run into the tens or hundreds of millions can order large doses of vaccines.

“Where there is a limited product and you are a manufacturer or vendor, it means that you have power in the marketplace and you can determine who you sell to, when you sell, and how much,” she said.

However, she noted that Barbados became the first country in the independent Caribbean to begin a national vaccination campaign, having secured its first 100,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca from India, which arrived on the island last night.

“Now we have the Oxford-AstraZeneca, which is a high-quality vaccine, with high efficacy suited to our climactic conditions, and to our population, our demographic profile, efforts are continuing to ensure that we have other vaccines because there are different types on the market,” the Ambassador declared.

She added that a committee was established to determine the suitability and other related issues from a medical and logistical perspective and to make recommendations to Government.

However, she pointed out that pricing and availability considerations would also have to be taken into consideration. “Just because a vaccine is in the market it doesn’t mean that it is best suited to our conditions, or that it is available to us for purchase,” she pointed out.

Ambassador Thompson said while Government was able to negotiate and receive some vaccines free of cost, it was prepared to pay “whatever the market demands” to ensure that Barbadians were safe and protected, and the island’s economy can reopen fully again.

“The vaccine is here. We are in a good position. By comparison with many populations across the world we are positioning ourselves for protecting our public and boosting our economy. A protected public is the first step to a vibrant and fully open economy,” she stated.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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