Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Sir Molwyn Joseph has accepted a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines and rapid antigen tests from the Government of Malta on behalf of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
The donation of 20,000 doses of AstraZeneca and 25,000 rapid tests from the European nation is to aid Antigua and Barbuda in its fight against the COVID-19 virus.
The items arrived here after Malta informed Minister Joseph of their intention to offer them as gifts, following a meeting of representatives from the two islands on the sidelines of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021.
The gesture is Malta’s way of expanding its level of cooperation with other countries around the world.
“It is amazing to me that after one meeting in Glasgow, within such short period of time, we have advanced bilateral relations with Malta, from which we are now benefitting, and so I want to acknowledge and express our appreciation to the government of Malta for their tremendous generosity to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”
Sir Molwyn said the vaccines have arrived just in time, since the Ministry of health has depleted its AstraZeneca stock.
“The last supply of AstraZeneca ended yesterday [Monday] and so it is coming at the perfect time to resume the distribution of vaccines in Antigua and Barbuda,” the health minister told a ceremony last evening at V.C Bird International Airport.
He credited the government for continuously ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are available to citizens and residents for them to inoculate against the virus.
Currently, five vaccines are available to the general public and persons are given the opportunity to select what best suits them.
Despite vaccines being readily available, the decision by the government to convince the citizenry of their benefits has proven challenging.
However, with fully vaccinated numbers at 60,492 and partial vaccination at 2,752 as of 30th January, 2022, Antigua and Barbuda remains the leader in vaccine compliance among English-speaking nations of the Caribbean.
Sir Molwyn Joseph used last evening’s brief ceremony to reiterate the importance of vaccination during the pandemic.
“As of this very moment, the best defence against COVID-19 is to be vaccinated. These vaccines expire at the end of February, and so it’s going to be very important that we succeed in getting as many people in Antigua and Barbuda to either take their first dose, or first and second doses as well as to get the booster.
“Vaccines are available and we cannot assume that this is the end of covid. We do not know what new variant might erupt, so under those circumstances, I think it is advisable that the people of Antigua and Barbuda take advantage of this opportunity,” the health minister advised.
He is remaining optimistic that the country can achieve a 70 percent vaccination rate and is appealing to advocates to assist in achieving that goal.
“We are hovering about 61, 62 percent, another eight percent we must achieve within a short period of time.
“We are depending on the media. We are depending on those who have been vaccinated to be advocates, and I’m sure we will achieve that by the target date that was given to us, that is, June of this year, established by PAHO and WHO, for us to get to that 70 percent, and that’s a challenge for all the countries in the Caribbean and South and Central America,” Sir Molwyn admitted
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