Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Barbados Today – A Regional Security System (RSS) aircraft touched down at Grantley Adams International Airport Tuesday evening bearing an historic gift of 100,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for Barbados.
An excited Prime Minister Mia Mottley was on hand with other members of her Cabinet to welcome the vaccines courtesy the government of India and which, Mottley revealed, will be administered to 50,000 Barbadians starting with frontline workers before this weekend.
The Prime Minister told a virtual press briefing that her Government expects to buy another 100,000 doses of the vaccine from India.
She said: “These are parts of the first batch of a potential 200,000 doses for Barbados. We are asking and hoping that we could purchase the remaining 100,000 doses from the government and people of India. We are still in the negotiations for that second batch, but we really want at this stage to say thank you to the people and government of India.”
The PM declared it a special moment in time for this country while commending the India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “quick, decisive and magnanimous action” in allowing Barbados to be the beneficiary of these vaccines and sending them in the shortest possible time to aide in “our fight.”
She also disclosed that Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who has worked closely with her in securing the vaccines, has agreed with her to share some of the vaccines with other Eastern Caribbean States. Mottley said Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana will also help.
Prime Minister Mottley sought to assure citizens, especially those who have doubts about the vaccine that Barbados has been using India-made pharmaceuticals for many years because its reputation and science in the field is globally respected.
In singing the praises of India as a longstanding friend, Mottley recalled $200,000 (US$100,000) in assistance last November to acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a recent agreement to receive an additional $1.35 million (US$675,000) to buy more material to help in the battle against COVID.
Describing the securing of the vaccine as momentous, the Prime Minister then turned her attention to explaining to citizens why Government chose the Oxford AstraZeneca jab over the others.
She said: “We know that we have a highly safe and effective vaccine. These are not my words but of key scientists and medical experts across the world. It has gone through the most rigorous and testing protocols and is currently being safely administered for thousands of people, whether in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
“But even with all the vaccines that exist, we are likely to have a period of time where boosters are going to be required because we are fundamentally in a race against time with respect to the variations and mutations of the vaccine.
“But we do believe that of all the vaccines out there, this is one of the most suited ones for Barbados and other tropical nations like our own because the temperatures required for storage are not as rigorous as some of the other vaccines although we are ensuring that if necessary we are in a position to also be able to store some of the more rigorous ones that require minus 80 degrees. This one, however, is stored at temperatures we are accustomed to in our country.”
The Prime Minister also said that many of those who are now raising fears about the COVID-19 vaccines are themselves the beneficiaries of vaccines during their childhood which have prevented them from contracting diseases such as mumps, measles and rubella.
“So I really hope that over the course of the next few days as we move to roll out the plan that would involve clearly the frontline workers… and frontline worker is defined broadly… of course those medically, those in law enforcement, those who help keep the State together, while at the same time going after the most vulnerable in our population,” Mottley said.
“And I give you the assurance that tomorrow [Dr] David Clarke, who I have put in charge of the logistics of the vaccine programme as well as [national vaccination coordinator] Dr [Elizabeth] Ferdinand will be in a position to… roll out and speak to you with respect to how the vaccines will be delivered over the course of the next few days… ten days or so.
“We hope that we will be in a position to procure additional vaccines, but as we do so, we say to Barbadians start having the discussions in your families and among yourselves. And why? Because you and I know that this country has one of the highest rates of NCD incidence…chronic non-communicable diseases in the world…and we, therefore, have to make sure that our people are not put additionally at risk as a result of the NCDs.”
But the Prime Minister insisted that right now, Government must make sure that people who take the vaccine, with advice from their doctors for safety purposes, can slow down the spread of the virus on the island.
Mottley is contending that once the vaccine can be taken safely it would prevent serious illness, hospitalization and even death.
Out-going Honorary Consul of India Dr Philomena Ann Mohini Harris read a message of friendship from the Indian High Commissioner based in Suriname in which the government in New Delhi promised more help to combat the COVID-19 pandemic here.
“The similar gesture of friendship and solidarity with other countries in the region has been extended and they will also be receiving the made in India COVASHIELD vaccine,” the message read in part.
The honorary consul went on to thank Prime Minister Modi for this “wonderful gesture of friendship”.