Pfizer almost done as shipments behind schedule
The hopes of 82,000 Jamaicans who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and are due a second in three weeks hinge on a shipment from the United States (US) that may not arrive on time, as the Ministry of Health & Wellness on Tuesday disclosed that supplies were limited.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced that the administering of the Pfizer vaccine will be halted on Wednesday as the 208,260 doses shipped from the US last month have almost been exhausted.
Up to noon on Tuesday, 179,915 doses of the vaccine were administered, 143,039 of which were first doses.
A total of 36,876 were second doses, with just over 28,000 remaining to be administered.
“We want to assure persons that they will get their second dose once supplies arrive in the country,” the health minister said, pointing out that the World Health Organization's recommendation on the administration of the Pfizer vaccine gives consideration to second doses being given within three to six weeks after the first dose.
He said that in some instances, it could be administered after 12 weeks.
“We will, therefore, delay the second dose and we're anticipating somewhere around six weeks,” he added.
This marks the second time in months that the health ministry has had to postpone the administration of second doses after running out of supplies.
In June, the ministry delayed the administration of second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to persons under the age of 50 when its inventory dwindled. At that time, approximately 30,000 persons were affected.
Tufton admitted on Tuesday that unpredictability in the arrival of vaccines has been a major challenge for his ministry.
“In this instance, the vaccines that we received with a commitment for an additional shipment at that time that I had announced represented a slightly different perspective because there wasn't a view, certainly from the source country, that these vaccines were in short supply,” he said.
He said that there was some certainty that the country would have received a second shipment from the US. It now remains unclear when that will materialise.
However, the minister said that he is anticipating a shipment in two to three weeks.
“There is a view that it is better for someone to have a single of two doses, particularly in the context of community spread, than not to have a dose at all because we're reserving it to give a second jab to someone who has had the first,” he said.
Tufton reported that the ministry was on track to hit its target of vaccinating 700,000 Jamaicans by the end of September.
He sought to allay concern that Jamaicans who have received only one dose are in jeopardy.
Some 686,828 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have so far been administered.
The health minister said that the ministry, in the meantime, is moving to expand its vaccination access points.
Six private hospitals have been identified to administer the vaccines.
They are scheduled to begin doing so next week.