The donation of 100,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India has sparked a major vaccination effort in Barbados that resulted in approximately 12.5% of the island population receiving their first shots within two weeks.

Frontline workers, including those in the tourism sector, were among those who received the first wave of vaccines.

In a televised nationwide address, Prime Minister Mia Mottley called it "a commendable start for a country that really did not have a lot in place for  vaccination program."

The vaccine rollout marked the fourth step in Barbados' Covid-19 management plan that hinges on contact tracing, public health protocols and Operation Seek and Save. In the Seek and Save program, public health officials visit communities to try and locate individuals who could unknowingly be infected and offer them early healthcare measures.

The vaccines now are available to those over 18, and the government has signaled its intent to obtain more doses so that all residents could be vaccinated by the end of April or early May.

Contact tracing remains the most critical tool in pandemic era, according to Dr. Kenneth George, chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

During a media conference, George emphasized the importance of contact tracing and urged the public to cooperate fully in helping public health officials track information.

The doctor said that there remained a "few communities that were identified as hotspots, and the ministry is working feverishly to rectify the situation."

The AstraZeneca vaccines are arriving on other islands as well, including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Grenada and St. Lucia.

Jamaica's shipment of the vaccine from India is scheduled to arrive March 8.


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