Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa F Etienne has urged countries in the region, that are in the lead to receive the first tranche of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility, to make the most of the early doses and use them as a test run for their immunisation systems and overcome barriers before more doses are rolled out.
COVAX, a coalition led by World Health Organization (WHO) and the Gavi Alliance to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, aims to provide access to almost 2.3 billion doses of vaccines this year. Of this, 35.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are slated for 36 Caribbean and Latin American states from mid-February to the end of June.
Jamaica itself is on stream to get between 146,400 and 249,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines through the facility towards the end of this month to vaccinate approximately 125,000 citizens. At the same time the Government has indicated that it is involved in bilateral talks with other countries to receive additional supplies of vaccines.
The hope is to vaccinate some 440,000 people by year end.
Yesterday, Dr Etienne, speaking during PAHO’s weekly virtual briefing, said “over the coming days countries will face important tests as they prepare for the delivery”.
“Any small delay could set vaccinations back weeks, so countries must make vaccine readiness their number one priority at this time,” she advised.
Said Dr Etienne: “Because these vaccines are new they need to be approved for use in every country, each country has its own laws and regulations so we urge ministries of health, regulatory agencies and other officials to review requirements for each COVAX vaccine to avoid delays in shipments.”