Education Minister Jonel Powell

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 3rd September 2021)- Minister of Education Jonel Powell, in his response to a question posed to him during an appearance on an episode of ‘Island Tea’ morning show aired on WINNFM on Wednesday 1st September 2021, addressed vaccination of children through schools regarding the Pfizer jab suitable for persons ages 12 years and older.

“Well at this point we’re not necessarily doing the vaccination through the schools. Parents are being encouraged to take their kids to the various health centres, and the reason for that is unlike with AstraZeneca, the Pfizer vaccine needs a much colder environment.  It needs to be stored in -80 degrees so the facilities to maintain that are limited and that’s why we can’t really do it through the schools,” he stated.

At the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing held on the afternoon of Wednesday 1st September 2021, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws highlighted that the rollout for the Pfizer Biontech vaccine began that day which included teenagers among those who were vaccinated.

She mentioned that the vaccine has been fully approved by the US FDA and so it is safe.

Dr. Laws recalled that the Federation was in receipt of the first three batches of approximately 11, 7000 doses. Notably, that contribution has been made by the US government.

“So earlier this morning at approximately 11 O’clock, the Pfizer Biontech vaccine rollout took place at the Newtown Health Centre and in Nevis the rollout took place earlier that afternoon at the Charlestown Health Centre.”

The CMO said a number of persons came forward and accepted the Pfizer Biontech vaccine for the first in the Federation today.

She went on to talk about the efficacy of that particular vaccine.

With respect to efficacy, based on the clinical trials, a two-dose regimen of this vaccine given 21 days apart confers approximately 95% protection against symptomatic COVID, and this was realized in persons age 16 and over. Also, we have data coming out of a recent trial involving adolescents 12   to 15 years of age, and the data shows that an efficacy  of a 100% would was achieved. Now in terms of effectiveness against hospitalisation, the efficacy is estimated at 87% and in terms of efficacy against the Delta variant which seems to be the most prevalent variant at present, the efficacy is estimated to be 88% so this vaccine is a good option.”

She shared that accepters of the vaccine will be given two doses, and that based on the information from the manufacturers, the interval can range from 21 to 28 days

Dr. Laws pointed out that the targeting of persons 12 years and over noting “So today we saw some teenagers coming forward to receive the Pfizer Biontech vaccine.”

She advised that will be administered by appointment only.

“… let me just explain the reason for this. Now, this vaccine is stored on a very cold refrigerator  -80 degrees and so it  has to be thawed,  and so must have a list of individuals  with appointments  so we must know two- three days ahead who will be vaccinated so that we can know how many vials to defrost in order to administer this vaccine.

According to her, there is minimum of 14 days between administration of this vaccine and any other vaccine against conditions.

“For teenagers, they may be booked for other vaccines like the HPV vaccine. Please note a minimum of 14 days must elapse between this vaccine before receiving another vaccine.”

The CMO said the Pfizer Biontech vaccine is safe for older persons, underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, liver and kidney disease as well as pregnant women, lactating females, persons living with HIV, persons who are immunocompromised and even persons who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19.

The new school year is slated to begin in the second week of September 2021 as children in St.Kitts are expected to return to the classroom in person.