A health official said on Thursday the well-publicised declining effectiveness of vaccines for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was one of the reasons health authorities in Barbados started to administer booster shots from Tuesday.
Co-coordinator of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand, said this might be a possible link to the “breakthrough” cases that frontline medical personnel were seeing in the isolation facilities around the island.
“We have found (around the world) that there is some waning of the potency of the vaccine,” she said during a nationally televised virtual news conference.
“It is not the vaccine itself. It is the response of our immune system that has waned off and to overcome that we have to give them a booster. This is nothing new. This goes on with all other vaccines.”
With several Barbadians still hesitant about the vaccine and the number of people coming forward to be immunised falling, Ferdinand said health authorities also wanted to use all the vaccine doses they had available before they expired.
“We still have some to be used and we are hoping that we will use up quite a portion of what we have by October 31,” she said.
“But we have other vaccines that will expire in December, and we want to get all the first doses used up and the second doses. With an interval of eight weeks between the two (doses), the vaccines that are expiring in December, we are going to have a hard task getting all of them used up by the end of December.”
There are approximately 45 000 AstraZeneca doses left on island to be administered for boosters and first and second doses. However, 15 000 doses are set to expire at the end of this month, and another 30 000 will expire at the end of December.
Ferdinand said only frontline health workers, the elderly, and immune-compromised people were currently eligible to receive boosters.
“These (people) should have completed their second dose by the end of April this year,” she said. “This means roughly anyone that was vaccinated in February or March, that’s one condition.”
The booster shots will be administered mainly at the Masonic Centre in Salters, St George, but they will also be offered at other vaccination sites and private doctors engaged in the vaccination programme.