Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at JNF General Hospital.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was granted in the United Kingdom (UK) for the use of a COVID-19 vaccine, which was produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. The vaccine has a very high efficacy rate of about 95 percent. The Caribbean is expected to get the vaccine by March 2021.

“We can be assured that the vaccine is safe and will be ready for use in the UK over the next week,” said Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at JNF General Hospital during the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) COVID-19 Press Briefing on December 2.

“The interesting thing about the vaccine is that it needs to be kept at a temperature between -70 to -80 degrees Celsius,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “It will require special freezers and will be shipped in special containers with dry ice to keep it at the appropriate temperature. Once it reaches to the destination, however, it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

Dr. Wilkinson noted that the vaccine requires two doses that are given 21 days apart. The vaccine uses the COVID-19 genetic code to prime immunity. Immunity starts seven days following the first injection.

The UK is the first nation to approve the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Wilkinson said that he is happy that the first world countries are the first to use the vaccine.

“Very soon we might be hearing about the Emergency Use Authorization in the US also because they have applied for this,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “Since these are our main tourist sources it would be good if they get the immunization before us to ensure that we will be safe.”

Dr. Wilkinson said that in the UK there will be 800,000 doses available in the first instance. The UK has ordered 40 million doses, which will be enough for 20 million persons as it is given in two doses.

Health staff, residents in care homes and care providers, and the medically vulnerable will be given priority to the vaccine.

Dr. Wilkinson said it is hoped that the Caribbean Member States will receive the vaccine by March 2021.

“We might get it before that,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “Earlier on most persons were saying that we would not get a vaccine before the end of the year and you see within another week or so persons will be vaccinated in the UK. “Maybe the production might be sped up so that we might get it earlier than March. But that is the predicted time.”