by Linda Straker
- Healthcare providers identified as priority group for Covid-19 vaccine
- Grenada is among IDA eligible countries to receive free vaccine
- PAHO has adapted WHO readiness assessment tool for our region
Dr Francis Martin, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, disclosed that Grenada has identified its priority group for the Covid-19 vaccine and has applied for early delivery. Health officials are currently preparing a rollout plan for the vaccine recommended for use in this region.
“Our broad-based priority group will be healthcare providers, but we are yet to decide which profession within the priority group will the first, second, or third batch that will be vaccinated. Everyone in healthcare has an important role but all will not be able to get it together,” said Dr Martin, who previously served as the Chief Medical Officer.
Through the COVAX facility, Grenada is among the list of International Development Association (IDA) eligible countries that will receive free vaccine. IDA is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.
Whichever vaccine is recommended is set to be available in March/April 2021, but some countries in the region have made an advance application for early deliveries which might be available in February 2021. “We are among the countries that have made an advance application and so we stand a better chance of getting our first shipment earlier,” Dr Martin said.
The Gavi COVAX Facility forms a key part of the COVAX Pillar of the Access to the Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organisation (WHO) working in partnership with developed and developing countries vaccine manufacturers.
Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation), said on Wednesday that her organisation is hopeful that the Covid-19 vaccines that will soon come to market will help contain the pandemic, but this will take time and advance planning.
“While a number of vaccine candidates are under consideration, no vaccines have been approved for our region yet,” Dr Etienne said in the weekly Wednesday news conference held virtually for journalists across the Americas. “We are working hard to ensure that once vaccines are approved and are available, countries are prepared to roll them out. The World Health Organisation has developed a readiness assessment tool that PAHO has adapted for our region to ensure that our member states have the guidance that they need on everything.”
The assessment tool provides guidelines for an approach that ranges from engaging healthcare staff to regulatory aspects, communication, resources and as well as the training needed to prepared health systems for vaccination campaigns.
Dr Martin confirmed that Grenada’s rollout plan already has a communications strategy that will educate nationals about the benefits of vaccinations for medical ailments and the role vaccines have played in saving lives and turning around economies that are affected by pandemics such as Covid-19.
Dr Etienne said that in the early days of vaccine availability there will not be enough vaccines to protect everyone, so the objective is to save lives using the first deployment to reach those most vulnerable to develop severe forms of Covid-19 because of pre-existing conditions such as cancer, respiratory problems and diabetes. “Each country must identify priority groups and adapt to communications campaign materials to meet their needs.”
Dr Etienne who confirmed that PAHO will be supporting member states in developing national health development plans. This week PAHO is convening a meeting of member states in an extraordinary session of its Council, where they will meet with the Ministers of Health within the region to discuss the preparation for vaccine rollout and the purchasing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in the region through PAHO’s revolving fund and through the COVAX Facility.