Faced with the likelihood of part of its stock of COVID-19 vaccines expiring, the Government of Montserrat has donated 500 doses to Anguilla.
This comes over concerns that the doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug provided to Montserrat by the British government were at risk of being dumped with the May 31st deadline for administering that consignment fast approaching.
Vaccine uptake in Montserrat has been the lowest among the UK’s Caribbean Overseas Territories averaging 39 per cent to date.
Anguilla on the other hand has so far vaccinated over 67 per cent of its adult population with the same Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine also supplied by the British government.
There has been scepticism in Montserrat over the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug based on instances elsewhere of blood clots associated with the vaccine.
The doubts have persisted despite efforts by local, UK and other authorities to reassure that this has only been in a small minority of cases globally.
A statement from the office of Montserrat’s Governor Andrew Pearce said:
“Due to the impending 31 May expiry date of the first tranche of vaccines supplied to Montserrat and the huge demand for vaccines across the UK family and globally, last week a decision was taken jointly by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Governor’s Office, Foreign, the Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Business Enterprise Innovation and Science (who are responsible for the UK supply of vaccines) to ensure these vaccines did not go to waste.”
It also stated: “Despite many appeals from community-based leaders, Government Ministers, Ministry of Health leaders and a rigorous communication campaign to encourage vaccine uptake, the Covid-19 vaccination programme on Montserrat has had a low uptake so far in comparison to other OTs and other countries with access to a significant supply of the vaccine.”
Montserrat had received 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the UK, sufficient to vaccinate 70% of the adult population of the island. Montserrat’s population is around 4,500.
“The UK Government, the Governor’s Office and the Ministry of Health and Social Service could not in good conscience allow such a precious resource to go to waste,” the statement by Montserrat’s Governor, Andrew Pearce said.
“500 of these first tranche vaccines were therefore transferred to Anguilla to be used in their vaccination programme before expiry.”
Montserrat still has 2000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses left from the consignment delivered to us in April. Those will expire on July 31st.
“We encourage everyone not to let this opportunity slip past us again,” the Governor's statement added and further warned: “We will not be able to request a further supply of vaccines from the UK, when we have been unable to use what has already been supplied.