Coronavirus
CARIB | Dec 21, 2020

Unclear which COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in Caribbean

/ Our Today

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Moderna shot being rolled out across America

Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organisation. Etienne also serves as and World Health Organisation regional director for the Americas. (Photo: CARICOM.org)

There has been no information yet available on whether the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is the second one to have been approved by many nations for treating the global pandemic, will be distributed in the Caribbean.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), has said that “while a number of vaccine candidates are under consideration, no vaccine has been approved for distribution across our region yet”.

Speaking last week during a remote briefing from the United States capital, Washington, D.C., Etienne hinted that a decision on the new vaccine could be made this week.

In anticipation of a vaccine roll out, PAHO is convening a meeting this week of health ministers from across the region in an extraordinary session. PAHO is the regional branch of the World Health Organization.

A healthcare worker draws the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from a vial at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, in South Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 17, 2020. (File Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

The organisation, which serves several countries including in Latin America and the Caribbean, is calling for member nations to prepare for the purchasing and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and to prioritise who will be first in line.

FDA authorises Moderna vaccine for emergency use

On Friday, the FDA authorised Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, allowing the vaccine to be distributed in the US for use by individuals who are 18 years or older.

“With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalisations and deaths in the United States each day,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn.

Hahn said that through the FDA’s open and transparent scientific review process, two COVID-19 vaccines have been authorised in an expedited timeframe while adhering to the rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness.

​According to the FDA, the Moderna vaccine “has met the statutory criteria for issuance of an EUA (Emergency Use Authorisation),” as the potential benefits outweigh the known risks. The first COVID-19 vaccine to have been issued with an emergency use authorisation, on December 11, was the vaccine developed in partnership between the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer and German firm, BioNTech.

“Today’s authorisation demonstrates our steadfast commitment to the health of the American people, with the assurance that our scientific standards and the integrity of our review process have been maintained,” reported Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Public display of confidence in the vaccine

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter last week to mark the authorisation of the Moderna vaccine in America in an uncharacteristically modest post. After the authorisation, several US political figures, including Vice President Mike Pence; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, publicly received shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

US Vice President Mike Pence receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the White House in Washington on Friday, December 18. (File Photo: REUTERS/Cheriss May)

President-elect Joe Biden announced that he would take the vaccine today. Moderna’s shot is expected to be used in harder-to-reach locations, such as rural hospitals.

The vaccine needs to be stored and shipped frozen, but does not require the ultra-cold temperatures of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Once thawed, the Moderna vaccine can be kept at typical refrigerator temperatures.

It is administered in two shots 28 days apart. Moderna said it would deliver approximately 20 million doses to the American government this year and expects to have between 100 million and 125 million in the first quarter of next year, with 85-100 million of those for the United States alone.

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