COVAX, AstraZeneca, and Fears of the Vaccine in Barbados


Barbados, a tiny island nation in the Caribbean sea, will receive their first batch of COVID-19 vaccines later this week. The COVAX initiative, co-led by the World Health Organization, will distribute the vaccine.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed healthcare inequalities across the world as many more developed nations have managed to secure vaccines for their populations. This has, in some cases, led to vaccine stockpiling.

The central goal of COVAX is to organize low to medium income nations into one bloc to increase their negotiation power with pharmaceutical companies. This ensures that smaller countries will be able to vaccinate their populations in the fight against COVID-19.

The COVAX initiative has been instrumental for Barbados to receive their allocated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Barbados will soon receive 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to vaccinate 50,000 people, which is roughly 16% of the entire population. Frontline workers and healthcare workers will be the first to receive the vaccine until more doses arrive.

However, the population at large seems to be very skeptical. South Africa just halted their rollout of the AstraZeneca Vaccine due to concerns that it is not effective against its new COVID-19 strain. In addition, there are general concerns about whether the vaccine is safe to use since it was developed so quickly.

I spoke with a doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) here in Barbados. He stated that the overall response from the medical community towards the vaccine has been positive. Still, he knew that many of his patients had reserves about taking the vaccine.

While the vaccine is not actually mandatory to take, citizens of Barbados will receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free, so the government is encouraging everyone to take it. This has led to a massive campaign to promote vaccination.

Leading figures in the medical and spiritual communities have also come out in support of the AstraZeneca vaccine in an attempt to mobilize the public. 

During a press conference, the government shared some of the major concerns that the general public has had about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. Who cannot take this vaccine? Is the vaccine safe for people with diabetes? Is this vaccine safe for Black people? These questions may seem surprising but they have their basis in history. 

The Caribbean has a history of mistrusting its former colonizer, Great Britain, due to horrific events in history such as slavery and segregation. Thus, many people do not fully trust the British vaccine.

Still, the doctor at QEH said that he will definitely get the vaccine. He encourages all of his patients to as well, because “it is the first step towards creating a safer future for us all”.

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