Wednesday, September 22, 2021
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Access to vaccines

With more fully vaccinated events planned and a steady COVID-19 vaccination uptake, persons under 18 years are denied both.

Currently, the AstraZeneca is the only vaccine available in Grenada and it has not been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for persons under 18 years.

Minister of Health and Social Security Hon Nicholas Steele remains steadfast that vaccines “will get us to the end of this (pandemic),” and is looking forward to the day when vaccines for persons under 18 years are available here. He noted that other countries are vaccinating children. The American Centre for Disease Control, for example, recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech for children 12 years and older.

Minister Steele said “we look forward to the day” if and when the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved for persons under 18 or Grenada can acquire other vaccines approved for children.

When asked at the post Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday what the vaccination availability means for students in the school situation, the Minister said “we would be looking at vaccinating the individuals under 18 who would come forward. That’s going to help to add to our numbers,” he pointed out.

There are some 15,769 persons between 10 and 19 years in Grenada, according to the 2019 annual population estimates from the Statistical Division in the Ministry of Finance. That represents approximately 14% of the estimated total population of 112,579.

The vaccination roll-out is part of Grenada’s and other countries’ pursuit of herd immunity to COVID-19. The percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated depends on how quickly and aggressively the virus spreads, according to medical research. Herd or community immunity requires enough people to be vaccinated and, therefore, resistant to the disease, thereby preventing it from spreading among the population. Minister Steele and other Ministry officials have previously suggested herd immunity for COVID-19 requires 70% of the population to be vaccinated.

With current AstraZeneca vaccines due to expire June 27 and a new shipment of 21,600 doses having arrived on Wednesday from COVAX through the Pan American Health Organisation, government officials continue to urge more people to take the vaccine. If people fail to respond in large enough numbers, neighbouring countries would be happy to receive the unused vaccines before expiry.

“We are seriously looking at our present uptake to determine the number of doses we will administer by that expiry date,” Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shawn Charles said, confirming that the Ministry is considering requests from countries for the unused vaccines.

The CMO also confirmed there are “supply chain issues” with the availability of other vaccines that are regularly administered to children; this is due to the horrific impact of COVID-19 on India, the leading manufacturer of most vaccines.

“Many of these childhood vaccines are manufactured by the largest manufacturer in the world, which is the Serum Institute of India,” he explained, as he warned of some delays in the delivery process.

Minister Steele, noting that many of the current childhood vaccines are coming close to expiration, community health nurses decided not to use some and, instead, wait for new stock, following the principle of “safety first always.” He said there may be some delays, as a result, but “well within the window” of allowable time to administer.

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