BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, March 18, 2021 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – Thursday’s (March 18) Sitting of the National Assembly got underway with the Federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett, defending the Government’s vaccination plan and public education programme on the efficacy and importance of being vaccinated.
The minister was at the time responding to a question posed by Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Denzil Douglas.
The question posed by the Member for St. Christopher Six stated, “As part of the COVAX arrangement for accessing vaccines for St. Kitts and Nevis and the region, which vaccine (Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca or Johnson and Johnson or Novavax) will be available for citizens and residents of the Federation; and when will the plans to sensitize the public on the importance and safety of the chosen vaccine commence?”
The Honourable Minister of Health responded by pointing to the irrelevance of the question, as she noted that it is now a well-known fact by all that it is the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine that is being used by the authorities here in St. Kitts and Nevis to immunize citizens and residents.
“We have begun the roll-out of our vaccine and at this point the country already knows that the vaccine of choice for St. Kitts and Nevis is the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine. We are in about the fourth week of our roll-out and as of yesterday, 17th March we would have vaccinated 7,071 persons with their first dose of that Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine. We were able to do so thanks to the contributions made by Dominica and India in the amounts of 2,000 and 20,000 doses respectively. And I am pleased to say Mr. Speaker that through the COVAX Facility we would be able to receive another 21,600 doses – enough to cover another 20 percent of our population,” the minister said.
Minister Byron-Nisbett also stated firmly that a public education programme was rolled out early on by health experts and continues even today.
The minister said, “Since we’ve begun the roll-out of the vaccine we have stepped up in our communication and education as it relates to the vaccine. As such Mr. Speaker, a comprehensive communication strategy has been implemented by the Ministry of Health to support this COVID-19 vaccine programme. Since about February, this education process has begun. Mr. Speaker, clear and transparent communication on all aspects of the COVID-19 vaccines, led by our subject matter experts, to build public trust in the vaccine safety and efficacy is ongoing using various modes of traditional as well as non-traditional communication.”
Using his own discretion, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable A. Michael Perkins disallowed a second question by the Opposition Leader. The second question quoted an inaccurate figure of USD $800,000 as monies paid by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to the COVAX Facility for access to additional vaccines.
At the October 15, 2020 Sitting of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris told the nation that a total of US$223,660 was paid for St. Kitts and Nevis’ participation in the COVAX Facility. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) paid US$96,163 on behalf of the Federation while the Government paid the remaining US$127,497.
The Honourable Speaker noted that the figure quoted in the Opposition Leader’s second question would result in a debate – which was not allowed under the section ‘Questions’ on the Order Paper. That question was then disallowed.