Further update on COVID-19 vaccination roll-out

Written by on March 30, 2021

On February 17, 2021 Saint Lucia through the Ministry of Health and Wellness launched the national COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign. This campaign is now in its sixth week of implementation and as of Monday March 29, 2021 a total of 22,011 individuals have received their first of two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Among these individuals are health sector professionals, officials within national security, border protection, tourism sectors as well as various staff within line ministries. Vaccines have also been received by our senior citizens, people living with mobility challenges, and individuals living with life-long chronic illness all of whom are at particularly high risk for the severe COVID-19 illness if infected by the virus.

This significant response to the national campaign has resulted in our initial stock of 23,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines being augmented by St. Vincent and the Grenadines which loaned us an additional 5000 doses to allow for the completion of Phase One of our national vaccine campaign. Early in April 2021, Saint Lucia expects the first shipment of 24,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX Facility. These doses shall be used to commence Phase Two of the campaign and to administer the first batch of second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Initially Saint Lucia had decided on a six week interval for receiving the second vaccine dose. However, The World Health Organization, in its last release on March 16, 2021 noted that a wider second dose interval of 8 to 12 weeks is recommended. This revision was done as it has been proven that this wider window increases the effectiveness of the vaccine as it provides increased protection from the virus to individuals who are vaccinated within this updated schedule.

Considering this update, the Ministry of health took the decision to reschedule the second dose appointment to 8 weeks for people who were initially given the 6 weeks appointment after their first dose. The Ministry of Health will be informing these individuals of the new date of their second COVID-19 vaccine dose by way of a phone call or through the management of their organization.

Like any other vaccine or medication, there are common side effects associated with these products which some people may experience. For the COVID-19 vaccine, these side effects are generally mild to moderate. When they do occur, they tend to last about 24 to 48 hours after receiving the vaccine. Common reported side effects include tenderness, pain, warmth, and/or swelling at the injection site; fever; chills; fatigue, headache, nausea, muscle ache, and body pains. There have been few reports of rash, itching, dizziness, sweating and abdominal pains.

The Ministry of Health is encouraging people who experience side effects associated with the vaccine to report this to their health care provider. This is part of the monitoring and evaluation process of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

To date, there is no evidence of death caused by the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine globally nor in Saint Lucia by the Ministry of Health. The vaccine has been manufactured in keeping with the strictest safety requirements, from the stage of manufacturing to the administering of the vaccine to individuals and the monitoring which follows vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, it is free and is being made accessible to all over the age of 18 years.

The Ministry of Health will be providing further updates on the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the coming week.

For more information please contact the Office of the Chief Medical Officer or the Epidemiology Unit, at 468-5309/468-5317 respectively

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