ROADTOWN, BVI–The Virgin Islands and other Overseas Territories like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are expected to receive any COVID-19 vaccine procured by the United Kingdom.
BVI Governor Ausgustus Jaspert has announced that the United Kingdom government will ensure the vaccine will be shared with the OTs.
According to the Governor, the Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Baroness Elizabeth Sugg wrote to all the leaders of Overseas Territories governments earlier this week to confirm this offer and the UK’s unwavering commitment to working in partnership to tackle COVID-19.
The Governor said that the exact details of the BVI’s allocation will depend on the nature of the vaccine procured and its availability, which public officials in the UK and BVI will discuss to ensure that the people of BVI, the people of the UK and those in other OTs all receive a share.
He added that following this, the Government of the Virgin Islands will be responsible for managing any vaccine and its voluntary distribution across the Territory.
Governor Jaspert explained that this announcement follows COVID-19 related support from the UK beginning in January. Throughout 2020, UK medical professionals have provided advice and support to the BVI Health Services Authority on disease management.
He said, “The UK has also provided more than $1.4 million worth of medical equipment including testing kits, ventilators, protective gear, laboratory supplies, mobile isolation units and a new testing machine that has given BVI the capability to run real time PCR tests on island for the first time. This enables the Territory’s medical professionals to respond to the virus, and builds the long-term capacity of our local health services.”
Governor Jaspert said, “I am pleased that the UK has made this commitment and although the exact details have yet to be worked out depending on the vaccine procured, it is a clear signal of the UK and BVI’s special partnership. Our Health Services and public officials have been doing a fantastic job to fight COVID-19 and I hope this promise of support from the UK will be an extra boost to help defeat the virus.”
In a letter to Baroness Sugg dated 27 October, 2020, Premier Andrew Fahie thanked the United Kingdom Government and its agencies for the support given to the Territory during this COVID-19 global pandemic.
In the letter, Premier Fahie noted that the possibility of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 is indeed comforting news for everyone who subscribes to the taking of vaccines.
“We must bear in mind that there are persons in our society who, for religious or other beliefs, do not subscribe to the taking of vaccines, and we do have to be respectful of that when the time comes. Notwithstanding this, the people of the Virgin Islands would be grateful and happy to receive supplies of the vaccine when it becomes available, for which I thank the UK Government in advance,” he stated.
The Premier further stated to the Baroness, “I note from your letter that one of the potential vaccines would require special storage. I would like the BVI to be in a state of preparedness to receive the vaccines when they become available. I would be grateful to know the specifications of the recommended storage facilities so my Government can begin looking at where we can locate the facility and what resources we would need to put this in place.”
But when will this vaccine be available? Reuters reported Sunday that Britain’s health regulator had started an accelerated review of AstraZenca’s potential coronavirus vaccine, and also another vaccine made by Pfizer.
In rolling reviews, regulators are able to see clinical data in real time and have dialogue with drug makers on manufacturing processes and trials to accelerate the approval process.
However, exactly which country gets the vaccine first depends on which country’s regulators clear it for use first.
“If the US regulator clears it first, they will get it first,” an AstraZeneca spokesman told the UK tabloid.
United States has already secured almost a third of AstraZeneca’s one billion possible COVID-19 vaccine doses by pledging up to $1.2 billion in May.
This announcement does however make it unlikely that the BVI, Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands will be receiving vaccines from Russia or China, which also have products in an advanced state of readiness.