As this country ramps up its COVID-19 drive, health authorities have reserved 2000 vaccines for healthcare providers, who have been identified as a priority group.
St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) received a donation of 5000 Covishield (Indian) AstraZeneca vaccines from Dominica last week, which allowed the nationwide vaccination drive to begin on February 14.
Shanika John, the health promotions officer in the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that the intention of last weekend’s soft launch was to target just 50 persons to assess the overall implementation of the vaccination drive.
“However, the uptick of…willing volunteers significantly increased overnight and so we were able to vaccinate 146 persons and counting,” John said during a virtual press conference of the Ministry of Health.
That number has since increased, as COVID-19 vaccination has been ongoing at various health facilities across the country.
On Tuesday, 40 persons, including healthcare workers were inoculated at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
Health authorities are aiming to inoculate 10,700 of the Vincentian population in the first phase of their drive.
SVG, like many other countries around the world have identified their vulnerable populations to receive the vaccine.
These include frontline healthcare workers, persons with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and persons over 65 years.
However, being vaccinated is a voluntary process and some of the persons who volunteered to be vaccinated last weekend, appeared to fall outside of those priority groupings.
“It is not mandatory and if persons who are prioritized are not coming forward in the numbers, then we have to give it to who want it because the objective is to vaccinate as much of our population as possible, because we are seeking to get to – some people say 70 per cent, I think, in order to have herd immunity,” Dr Franklyn James, a medical doctor said at Tuesday’s press conference.
He noted that the more persons who achieve immunity against COVID-19 by taking the vaccine, the more difficult it is for non-vaccinated persons to contract the virus.
John, the health promotions officer, added that persons with underlying conditions do not have a specific appearance and that the groups identified were still very much being targeted to be among the first to receive the vaccine locally.
“We have reserved 2000 of our vaccines for our healthcare providers and we will also target some of our educators who are also interested, specifically in the primary and secondary school setting,” she said.
COVID-19 vaccines are currently being administered by appointment only. Persons interested in being inoculated are being asked to send an email to [email protected] with their name, telephone number, current address, age and gender.
As at Tuesday, February 16, there were more than 300 persons waiting for an appointment to be vaccinated and 100 more emails with dozens of persons volunteering to be a part of the process.
“If you do not have access to an email or you cannot facilitate this via an email, we ask that you visit your nearest health centre and indicate your interest and willingness to be vaccinated. The healthcare provider will take your information and this information will be forwarded to our team and it will be logged,” John said.
The health promotions officer said health authorities are currently working with both public and private sectors to continue to educate the public and give accurate and updated information, so persons could make informed decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.
Volunteers received vaccines this week at the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital, Buccament Polyclinic, Stubbs Polyclinic, Levi Latham Health Complex, Sandy Bay Health Centre, Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre, Port Elizabeth Health Centre and the Union Island Health Centre.
John said the vaccination sites will expand as the implementation plan continues to be rolled out locally.