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VI to receive 8,000 doses of 'less potent' COVID-19 vaccines from UK next month

The United Kingdom (UK) Government will donate and deliver 8,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Virgin Islands next month, the Governor's Office announced via a press release today, January 12, 2021.

According to the press release, the VI will be receiving the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which was given regulatory approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on December 30, 2020, after a rigorous, detailed scientific review by medical experts.

It said the vaccine has already been rolled out to thousands of individuals across the UK and is favoured for its more simple storage requirements compared to other vaccines.


His Excellency Governor August J. U. Jaspert has said the VI is one of the first places in the region to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine; however, with the vaccine proving to be less potent than the other two approved in the UK and the FDA in the US not approving it for use due to limited data, there may be some concerns about taking the shots by some in the Virgin Islands.

Local Gov't will manage distribution


The Governor's Office said the Government of the Virgin Islands will be responsible for managing the rollout and distribution of the vaccine in the territory, and health officials are working on plans how to most effectively do this following a visit from Public Health England to discuss plans in December.

"Current advice from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England states that as many people as possible should take the vaccine. It will be offered on a voluntary basis in BVI," the press release stated.

His Excellency Governor August J. U. Jaspert said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for BVI. As one of the first places in the region to receive the vaccine, this gives us the opportunity to make these islands one of the safest places to live and visit.”

He added, “it is a clear signal of the UK and BVI’s special partnership and I am thankful to the UK for this generous donation which comes at no cost to BVI. Our Health Services and public officials have been doing a fantastic job to fight COVID-19 and I hope the arrival of the vaccine from the UK will be an extra boost to help defeat the virus.”

Further doses of the vaccine will be provided to the VI by the UK as rollout plans develop, the Governor's Office stated.

The last COVID-19 update on January 7, 2021, showed the Virgin Islands as having 18 active COVID-19 cases.

How effective is vaccine from UK?


The UK now has three different COVID-19 vaccines in use to fight the pandemic; however, the vaccine by AstraZeneca is considered the less potent.

And according to Business Insider on January 8, 2021, there is a reason why AstraZeneca's two-shot vaccine is still missing from the US vaccine arsenal.

The vaccine was developed in partnership with the University of Oxford and was authorized for use across the UK since December 30, 2020, and it's also been cleared to go into arms in India, Mexico, Argentina, and several more countries.

Vaccine ‘less effective’


The FDA; however, is waiting for AstraZeneca to submit its vaccine paperwork, which may not be ready until the spring.

That data, according to Business Insider, came from a vaccine research trial which included more than 5,800 volunteers around the UK, South Africa, and Brazil.

“The results suggested that AstraZeneca's vaccine was 62% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections when taken as two full-strength shots. That's a much lower potency than both Pfizer and Moderna's shots, which were each more than 90% effective in trials.”

‘Big mistake’ during trial!


Business Insider also reported that the AstraZeneca trial included at least one big mistake. A subset of trial participants under 55 years old were accidentally administered a half-dose first shot, followed by a full-strength second jab.

"That's a pretty serious error," Dr Cody Meissner, chief of pediatric infectious disease at Tufts Medical Center, and one of the vaccine experts on the FDA's advisory committee, told Insider.

It said those patients who had a less potent initial shot, followed by a full-strength booster actually appeared more protected from coronavirus infections, with efficacy surging to 90% in the subgroup. Experts were puzzled by that.

"I won't go to the point of saying that it's not biologically plausible, but it's a little bit odd," Meissner said.

"It generates a little bit of pause, and makes one eager to actually look at the data and see what they found and to understand it a little bit more carefully."

According to Business Insider, the FDA; however, hasn't been offered that data to review for an emergency use authorisation (EUA), which would be required for Americans to start getting vaccinated with the shot.

“Instead, AstraZeneca is going to wait for the results of a larger, US-based trial, where no half-doses are planned,” Insider stated.

Governor Jaspert has said the VI is one of the first places in the region to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine; however, with the vaccine proving to be less potent than the other two approved in the UK and the FDA in the US not approving it for use due to limited data, there may be some concerns about taking the shots by some in the Virgin Islands.

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