The warning of a cut-off date for a guaranteed second AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 served to shake thousands of citizens out of hesitancy.
When Minister of Health Hon Nicholas Steele addressed the May 11 post Cabinet press briefing, he warned that persons who had not received their first shot by Monday (May 17) were not guaranteed a second shot.
“We cannot guarantee that we can give you your second dose in a timely manner,” he said then.
That applied as long as the time between the first and second shot remained between 10 or 12 weeks. By reducing the time between shots down to four or six weeks, government is now guaranteeing another 10,000 persons of both shots before the current supply expires between June 27 and 30.
However, on Tuesday (May 18), suggesting he was “misquoted or misunderstood,” Minister Steele further explained that “you can take the time period between the first and the second dose is between four and twelve weeks and it’s advised to take it around week eight or week ten. But, you are fully protected if you take your second dose between four and twelve weeks after your first.”
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell received his second shot on April 23, ten weeks after receiving his first on February 16. A Grenadian Voice reader who received their first vaccine on March 15, for example, has twelve weeks until their second shot; another reader who received their first on May 14 has six weeks until their second shot.
“So, therefore as of Monday (May 17) what we are doing as a people is reducing our flexibility in taking that second dose. We’re sort of tied to taking it four to six weeks after. Still, we are fully protected, but we are giving up our flexibility,” the Minister said.
While admitting that the government still does not have a confirmed source of replacement vaccines and that it is difficult to get additional stocks, Minister Steele said the increased uptake “trend greatly assists us.”
“We are working overtime to see if we can get, when we can get another shipment,” he said, noting that only vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are considered.
On May 07, the WHO listed the Sinopharm COVID-19 for emergency use, making the vaccine globally available. The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The Minister said government “has made a request” for Sinopharm “but we are very much aware that there are challenges in getting any of the vaccines right now.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Shawn Charles noted that “truth is winning over misinformation” and “with every shot in every arm we get stronger, we build immunity every day.”
Herd immunity requires approximately 60 to 80% of the population to be vaccinated, according to the Minister, who noted that last week 20% of the population had been vaccinated.
“Every day that we disseminate 1,000 doses, we increase by one%, so another 60 days like this and we’re out, we’re covered,” he predicted.
Grenada received 52,000 doses. As of May 18, 16,034 persons had received their first dose and 7,046 their second. On May 10, the day before the Minister warned about availability of the second dose, 13,523 had received their first shot and 5,280 their second.
The Minister also stated that government is looking forward to the day when persons under 18 years will be eligible for the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the National COVID-19 Advisory Committee is examining the most recent Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations regarding the size of public gatherings, vaccination verification and other protocols. Minister Steele said he is hopeful that there will be a public notice about any adjustments by the end of this week.