An optional booster shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being offered to those individuals who meet specific criteria, Co-coordinator of the National Vaccination Programme, Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand, announced Thursday.
She said fully vaccinated people over the age of 70, those who are immunocompromised, as well as frontline workers would be among the first recipients.
“Those persons who have already been fully vaccinated with two previous doses – now, these persons should have completed their second dose by the end of April this year, so that means it’s roughly those who started in February and March to have their first doses…the second condition is that they should also be over 70 years old and we are going to start with the older and more vulnerable persons initially; those persons who might have immunocompromised situations and frontline…healthcare workers,” Dr Ferdinand explained at a press conference.
Questioned about the reason for this additional shot, she responded: “Vaccines are not 100 per cent effective, all the time. So, there is always a necessity to do a booster. We do boosters for polio; we have five and six different doses of polio. We have boosters for tetanus; we have boosters for most of the vaccines. So, this is no different.”
“When we started, we did not know if we would need boosters. But what is happening, we see it in America; we see it in Canada, in UK, all around… cases are occurring in higher numbers again, and even in people who are vaccinated. So, it means that the immunity is waning. And we’re using a six-month period as the waning period. So, we’re using a booster to stimulate and boost those people who have already had two doses,” the public health specialist added.
Healthcare workers at the country’s public hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), were among the first to receive their booster shots on Wednesday.
“I must stress that this is entirely optional. It is just that we are offering it at this time. As you know, our number of cases is escalating daily and far too many Barbadians are getting COVID, so we are trying to give that extra boost to especially the older persons at this time,” the National Vaccination Programme co-ordinator said.
The latest COVID-19 statistics indicate that the total number of people who have taken at least one dose of a vaccine is 145,885 (63.9 per cent of the eligible population). The total number of individuals who are fully vaccinated is 118,537 (43.7 per cent of the total population or 51.9 per cent of the eligible population).
Dr Ferdinand said she was still not happy with the vaccination rate but authorities have decided to go ahead with the booster shots.
“The uptick rate is still very slow and yes, we were waiting until everybody was completely vaccinated, but then we would be waiting and waiting and waiting because not enough people are coming forward. So, we have decided to go forward, especially at this time when we are getting so many cases and some of the people who are fully vaccinated…are also coming down with the COVID – thank God not as a serious disease but they’re still catching it and increasing our numbers,” she said.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded since March last year, stand at 13,934. To date, 123 people have died.