REMARKS: Bahamas receives first batch of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX Facility


The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

30 March 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good afternoon.

The Bahamas received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines on March 10th.  

That batch of 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was generously donated by the Government of India to the Bahamian people.

I am pleased that today, The Bahamas has received 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility.

As of today, we have received 53,600 vaccines.

The batch we received today represents the first tranche of a total of 100,800 doses earmarked for The Bahamas and pre-paid through the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) Revolving Fund.

The AstraZeneca vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage like some of the other COVID-19 vaccines.

Because of this they are easier to transport in cold boxes to our Family Islands, resident facilities, and inner city communities.

This allows us to increase access to the vaccine and equitable distribution.

Vaccines approved for The Bahamas must be certified through the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) pre-qualification process.

The vaccines must have Emergency Use Listing through the European Union and the United Kingdom; Emergency Use Authorization through the Food and Drug Administration of the United States or Stringent Regulatory Authority/Caribbean Regulatory System approval.  

Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives.   

Vaccines will allow us to manage the transmission rate of the virus in our communities.

Vaccines will allow us to protect our loved ones, from having to be hospitalized, particularly our elders and senior citizens

Vaccines will save lives.

The life saved may be yours.

As more people become vaccinated, we will be able to relax restrictions and see more of our family and friends.

We will be able to open up our economy more and to get back to work.   

Health officials have informed me that they are pleased with the number of people who have taken a vaccine so far.

Let me thank the children, friends and neighbors of older citizens for bringing them in to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     Even as more of us receive the vaccine, we must still adhere to the other lifesaving health measures. 

It is important that you continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and keep a distance of six feet from others. 

It is also important to avoid large gatherings.

Easter weekend is traditionally a time of family gatherings and fellowship, including beach picnics.

But we are still in the midst of the pandemic.

These are not normal times.

The COVID-19 case numbers in The Bahamas and around the world make it clear that the pandemic is not over.

I wish to remind you that under the Emergency Powers Orders, on New Providence and Grand Bahama, groups at all beaches and parks are limited to five people per group.

COVID Ambassadors will monitor beaches and parks to ensure enforcement of the Emergency Orders.

Large gatherings over this weekend could set the country back.

If we continue to exercise discipline for a little longer we will reap the benefits.

If we continue to practice the preventative health measures and at the same time vaccinate more people, we will move even quicker toward a broader reopening of the country.

We will get there in a shorter period of time if we do not have to control outbreaks.

We cannot afford a painful third wave.  We all have to do our part.

We don’t want another surge in cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths.

At this time, health officials are managing outbreaks on Eleuthera and Grand Bahama.

The vaccination program will be accelerated to address the increase in cases.

Surveillance efforts will also be stepped up on islands where an increase in the number of cases is being recorded.

Vaccinations are starting on Eleuthera today, Tuesday, March 30th.

They will continue through Thursday, April 1st, starting with healthcare workers, residents over 60 and staff of the uniformed branches.

Vaccinations on Abaco and Bimini are expected to start next week after the Easter holidays.

We want to contain those who have the virus and offer the best care to the population so that they won’t have to be hospitalized.

Health officials are closely monitoring developments and assessments are being carried out on islands where outbreaks have been recorded.

Following various assessments which should come in early next week, we may take further steps based on the findings.

Vaccinations will continue this week on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Eleuthera leading up to the Easter holiday. 

After the holidays, vaccinations will resume on Wednesday, the 7th of April.

At that time, those with disabilities, teachers and hospitality workers will become eligible to receive the vaccine.

Additional vaccination centers will be opened on New Providence.

Provisions will also be made for students and athletes who require vaccinations to travel abroad.

This will include coaches and other support staff.

More information will be provided in the coming days on various details of the vaccination program.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Since the COVID-19 vaccination program began on March 14th, more than 7,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered on New Providence and Grand Bahama.

The highest number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered on a single day totaled more than 1,000.

To date, 63 percent of those who have received the vaccine are over the age of 60.

Others vaccinated include healthcare workers and staff of the uniformed branches.

Forty-two percent of those who received the vaccine were male and 58 percent were female.

Let me state again that vaccinations will continue on New Providence and Grand Bahama from Monday 29th of March, through Wednesday 31st of March, and on Eleuthera from Tuesday 30th of March through Thursday 1st. of April.

On New Providence, vaccinations for staff of the uniformed branches only took place Monday the 29th of March and continue today, Tuesday the 30th of March at Loyola Hall, Gladstone Rd.

Unformed branches include the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, COVID Ambassadors, Bahamas Department of Corrections, Bahamas Customs and the Department of Immigration.

On Wednesday March 31st, appointments at Loyola Hall will be open to the staff of the judiciary, uniformed staff branches, healthcare workers and members of the general public over the age of 60.

To receive a vaccine at Loyola Hall an appointment is required.

Vaccinations continue at the Church of God of Prophecy, through Wednesday 31st of March for residents 60 and older, healthcare workers and staff of the uniformed branches.

On Grand Bahama, the focus of the vaccination effort is on the east and west ends of the island at the start of this week and will continue at the Susan J. Wallace Community Center, beginning mid-week.

Residents eligible to receive the vaccine should continue to check for appointments as they become available.

Let me repeat that website:

On New Providence and Grand Bahama, mobile units will also provide vaccinations to nursing homes and other residential facilities this week.

For Eleuthera, including Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, COVID-19 vaccines will be administered starting with healthcare workers, residents over the age of 60, and staff of the uniformed branches, from Tuesday 30th of March through Thursday the 1st of April.

Clinic administrators will notify residents of Eleuthera of vaccination center locations and times.

The national vaccination program will resume following the Easter holidays.

A schedule of locations and eligible priority groups will be shared with the public in the coming days.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

While it is understandable that there is a strong desire to return to normal, we must all remember the pandemic is not over.

We can see from around the world that the pandemic is in its worst phase in some countries.

Last week, Pan American Health Organization Director Dr. Carissa Etienne discussed the challenges our region faces.

The circumstance is dire in South America, there are problems in multiple parts of the Caribbean, and cases are increasing in areas of North America.

Dr. Etienne described the situation as “an active public health emergency”, adding that “as the virus surges and hospitalizations rise we urgently need to scale up vaccination among our most vulnerable populations”.

The only way out of this pandemic is through vaccinations.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is providing you with false information.

What has worsened the situation is dangerous variants have emerged and they are spreading around the world.

These variants are more infectious than earlier versions of the virus.

Scientists also think they cause increased sickness and more deaths.

Here at home we are in a race.

We must get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible before there is spread of one of these problematic variants in our country.

As I mentioned to you before, The Bahamas has a poor health profile due to our struggles with obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other chronic non-communicable diseases.

COVID-19 is particularly dangerous and potentially fatal to people who have these conditions.

Thousands of Bahamians have taken this vaccine, along with approximately 400 million people around the world.

I have taken the vaccine.   My wife Patricia has taken the vaccine.  We are fine.

In order for us to prevent additional bad waves of the virus we need Bahamians to quickly come forward to get vaccinated when eligible.

The vaccine is our pathway to further opening up our economy and the creation of more jobs.

 It is dangerous to delay taking a safe and effective vaccine during a global public health crisis.

As you wait, you could get infected with the virus.

You could then end up in the hospital with permanent health issues – or worse, it could kill you.

This virus remains dangerous and it is random in who it infects. 

Having COVID-19 could set you back for days, weeks, months and even many, many years.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I want each person who has been vaccinated to call a few friends and family members who are eligible but hesitant to take the vaccine.

Share your story with them.

Explain the process to them.  Assure them that the vaccine is safe.

Such words of encouragement coming from a close friend or relative might be the difference in helping that person to come forward to take the vaccine.

Let us be a community of encouragement.

Let us urge those we love and care for to take this life-saving vaccine.

I was recently told the story of a son who took his 92-year-old mother to get vaccinated.

She was so relieved and overjoyed to get the vaccine that she called up her friends to tell them to take the vaccine.

Over the course of several days her son got a number of calls from his mother’s friends telling him to sign them up for the vaccine.

Her son says he has now become the Vaccine Secretary for his mother’s friends and their friends.

His mother says she took the vaccine because she remembers people who suffered from the effects of polio, measles and other diseases because they never got vaccinated for these diseases.

Those who do not remember those times and who refuse to get the vaccine, may have to relive history and experience for themselves the effects of COVID-19, which we know is causing long-term physical and mental illness

In the spirit and wisdom of this 92-year-old Bahamian mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, let us play our part in being our brother’s and sister’s keeper.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I want to thank the vaccine committee, the frontline healthcare workers who are administering the vaccines and the civic groups and volunteers who are assisting with the process.

You have come forward to help Bahamians during the worst crisis in our country’s modern history.

It is important that we remain resilient.

The virus is still here.

As more vaccines become available and more Bahamians get vaccinated, we will put this pandemic behind us.

Let me end by offering a brief Easter Message.

     This week, we celebrate Holy Week, commemorating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who gave his life so that we may be redeemed and have eternal life.

     As Christians and people of faith, we do not live for ourselves alone.

     We live for others. 

     In the imitation of Christ, we are called to act Christ-like in caring for others, especially the poor and the most vulnerable among us.

     It is in this spirit that many religious leaders have invited others to take the vaccine in order to protect yourself and those around you as well as the greater or common good.

     Easter is the celebration of new life and the hope of the Resurrection.

Let us continue to cultivate to celebrate this Easter hope and new life.

     On my own behalf and that of Patricia, may I offer a Happy Easter to all.

Thank you and good afternoon.