COVID vaccine doses for children as young as five arrive in The Bahamas

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By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

[email protected]

PAEDIATRIC doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on Saturday and could be administered in The Bahamas as early as Monday, Minister of Health Dr Michael Darville announced.

He said that vaccinations would be voluntary and not mandatory.

“The paediatric vaccine is on its way,” he said in Grand Bahama during an Appreciation Dinner on Thursday evening to thank the 60 volunteers and healthcare workers for their commitment in the battle against the COVID pandemic since the outbreak in March 2020.

Minister Darville said the vaccine will arrive in Nassau on Saturday at 10am.

“I am excited because Gina and I were in Geneva and struggled to get this vaccine, and the vaccine will be here,” he said.

In June, Dr Darville announced that the Bahamas had secured 20,000 paediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine following negotiations between the government and the World Health Organization (WHO) subsidiary for the acquisition of the doses.

The doses are for children aged five to 11 years.

Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for children. In May 2021, it received the US Food and Drug Agency’s (FDA) emergency use authorisation for children aged 12 to 17 years. In October, it received the authorisation for use in children five to 11 years after safety trials in 3,100 children in that age range. The FDA had reported that “no serious” side effects were detected.

While speaking in Freeport, Minister Darville said: “This vaccine is not mandatory; this vaccine is completely voluntary for our children, and for us who want our children to have the vaccine.

“We are not pushing this down anyone’s throat,” he said. “For those who want it, it is our responsibility (as) the government to bring it, and we intend to start vaccinating our paediatric doses the following Monday.”

Mr Darville commended the volunteers for helping to vaccinate citizens.

“We need to give it up for our vaccination crew,” he said. “I could go on and on to cite examples of your volunteerism. You operate from a gift of love.”

The minister shared his near-death ordeal after contracting COVID-19, which allowed him as a doctor to be more sensitive to patients and to appreciate healthcare workers for what they do.

“I had COVID, and I almost died of COVID. I was in the Intensive Care Unit, and I blacked out while in the emergency room, only to wake up in the ICU… confused, not certain where I was, and realised I was still alive.

“It actually changed my life. Sickness, death, and dying change your whole perspective on life. But, I was fortunate enough to survive,” said Dr Darville, who spent ten days in ICU and lost 40 pounds.

“I was very weak and fragile, probably the weakest I have been in my life,” he recalled.

Dr Darville thanked the nurses who took care of him after he collapsed on the bathroom floor. He also thankful to his family for nursing him back to health after being discharged from the hospital.

Dr Darville said he had suffered a relapse to long COVID, experiencing various symptoms, including heart palpitations, neurological symptoms, and a deficit in cognitive skills.

“I was not clear, and I was like that for six months after being discharged,” he explained, adding that it was challenge for him even after he had returned to his duties as a Senator in the Senate.

“And so, the reason I want to bring it up is that there is this thing that is real in the country called long COVID, and it has affected many Bahamians who were infected. And we want to bring it to the forefront and start to do something about it in our health cases. We must!”

The health minister urged volunteers and health care workers that there is will more work ahead.

“So, it is not business as usual. This is a very serious job, and as you begin to do it, I want you to do it with an open mind, and be very vigilant.”

“We are not in the government to really award you with all of the monetary support that you truly need, but we felt it would be neglectful for us if we do not bring you together as a team, and to say thank you.

“Thank you for what you have done, thank you for your commitment, thank you for your community service,” he said.

“Thank you for the gift of love, for your dedication, for helping those who could not have helped themselves. And, for clarity in the midst of confusion at a time when our country was in turmoil. Thank you for… where we are today.”

He also thanked the Ministry of Health professionals, including Gina Archer, Dr Danny Davis, Dr Frank Bartlett, head of COVID- 19 Taskforce in Grand Bahama; Hospital Administrator Sharon Williams, and Principal Nursing Officer Cheryl Bain.

Also in attendance was Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development. He said that volunteers and healthcare workers are the real “heroes and heroines” on the frontline of the coronavirus.

Dr Darville observed a moment of silence for the nurses, doctors, and others who died of COVID-19.

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