As of the January 10th, 2021, the World Health Organization reported that there have been more than 88 million cases and more than 1.9 million deaths globally from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Moreover, these numbers continue to rise with no downturn in sight.
Despite these sobering statistics and grim reality, the world has also seen the advancement of several COVID-19 vaccines. In remarks of January 7th, the WHO director stated
Vaccines are giving us real hope of bringing the pandemic under control in the next 12 months. He went on to note that one year on since WHO issued its first Disease Outbreak News (DON) about this virus, 42 countries have started vaccinating their high-risk populations with various COVID-19 vaccines.
Further to the commitment of the United Kingdom to provide Anguilla and the other overseas territories with vaccines against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health has been informed that the first two tranches of the AstraZeneca Vaccine should arrive by the second week of February.
The vaccine will be given in two doses given 28 days apart. With a total of 15,000 doses, it is anticipated that these two tranches be able to cover approximately 7500 persons by the end of the first quarter. The Ministry of Health’s overall goal is to provide coverage for 70% of Anguilla’s target population by December 2021.
Vaccination is the current global strategy to contain the pandemic which so far does not have a cure. While Anguilla has so far been spared from the negative impacts of the pandemic, this has only been accomplished through aggressive public health initiatives, solid public support but at significant cost to economic development.
Additionally, the long term impacts of the disease on human health is still unknown. However, evidence is mounting that effects such as scarred lung tissue, prolonged loss of the senses of taste and smell and other debilitating issues may be permanent in some patients. The death rates among persons who are elderly and have co-morbidities is also staggering. It is therefore imperative that small open economies like Anguilla continue to implement aggressive measures geared an maintaining a healthy population, in particular when it is evident that in some countries almost 4,000 person die each day from Covid-19.
The Ministry of Health has long supported vaccination programmes in Anguilla as a means of maintaining gains in public health made over the last half century. These programmes are safe and effective. In this vein, Covid-19 vaccination is also a priority programme of the Ministry in an effort to protect vulnerable populations, revive the economy and place the island on a sound development footing going forward. There is no doubt that the impact of the pandemic on the island in 2020 erased many national development gains made in Anguilla since the beginning of this century.
The Ministry will be communicating a comprehensive rollout programme that will see the following groups vaccinated in order of priority: