Sir Molwyn shares PAHO’s message to ramp up vaccinations, while nurse claims that Ministry is actually short of vaccines

With the rest of The Americas, Antigua and Barbuda is now observing Vaccination Week 2023, amidst a push for persons to be inoculated against the COVID-19 virus, since a strong strain has been impacting certain parts of the world.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), held an opening ceremony at the Ministry’s headquarters on Monday, April 24.

Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph used the opportunity to highlight a call from PAHO for countries to urgently step up their routine vaccination programmes.  

The organization notes the risk of disease outbreaks in the Americas has reached a 30-year high due to a decline in vaccination coverage.

Sir Molwyn says that PAHO officials blame the drop in coverage primarily to inadequate financing for immunization and an increase in vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation.

Meanwhile, Joseph commends local nurses for a job well done.  At the same time, he notes that the failure to effectively implement and maintain routine vaccination coverage leaves children “susceptible to diseases such as polio, tetanus, measles and diphtheria.”

Ironically, giving the Health Minister a virtual side-eye, one nurse tells REAL News, “Just imagine: no vaccines available again! There is no IPV, no yellow fever vaccine, and still no chicken-pox vaccine.”

She says it is a crying shame that the Health authorities “are encouraging people to come take their vaccines [knowing that the country is short on supplies.]”

She adds that Antigua and Barbuda “still owes St. Kitts; so, again, no help from them.”  

(This, apparently, is a reference to the period in which the Ministry of Health received a “loan” of COVID-19 vaccines from the neighbouring island during the pandemic.)

“They keep saying they are negotiating with the supplier,” the nurse adds, but they are not sure when the vaccines will be received.   “They keep saying soon,” she reports.  

She adds that, during last week’s meeting of the Nurses Association,

“it was mentioned that there is a big bill, or outstanding amount that is owed, and the supplier is demanding to be paid before any further distribution occurs.”

This year’s theme for Vaccination week is “Get up to date – #EachVaccineCounts,” and the aim is to reach more than 92 million people across the region with life-saving vaccines.

In addition to the opening ceremony, nurses, community health aides, and auxiliary staff participated in a march from the former Health Centre to the Ministry’s headquarters to educate the public on the importance of vaccines.

The week is being observed from April 22 to 29.