Government, Press Release
In October 2020 Baroness Sugg, the UK government Minster for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development. wrote to the Island Council stating that following approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) the UK government would be providing a supply of vaccines to the Overseas Territories.
AIG are pleased to announce that preparations are now being made for the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it is anticipated that enough doses will be made available to cover the entire adult population of Ascension. Work is underway with Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to ensure that the vaccine can be delivered safely and securely to the island. It is expected that these will be delivered to the island by the end of February.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has passed a rigorous testing and development process and has shown to meet the strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness needed for it to be deployed. It can also be stored at fridge temperature making it easier to distribute than some other COVID-19 vaccines. Whilst it will need to be kept cold on its journey to the island, Georgetown Hospital already employs a similar temperature-controlled supply chain on a regular basis to import blood stocks to Ascension.
Georgetown Hospital will prioritise vaccination of medical staff, emergency service workers, those who are considered to be at high-risk of developing a severe illness were they to contract COVID-19 and the dependents of those in these groups. Following this, the vaccine will be offered to the wider public. At present the vaccine is not recommended for those aged less than 18 years old, and although further work is ongoing to assess the effectiveness of vaccines on this group, at this time they will not be offered the vaccine.
In order to develop the highest level of immune response to the vaccine two doses will be required, spaced between three and 12 weeks apart. To ensure that individuals maintain immunity, further vaccinations will be planned and carried out as required, as and when additional doses are made available to Ascension.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by the MHRA on 30 December 2020, having demonstrated up to 90% effectiveness in protecting against COVID-19 infection amongst those who participated in clinical trials. As of Wednesday 27 January, over 7.3 million people in the UK have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which includes both the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
For life to return to a pre-pandemic normality a large proportion of the world’s population will need to be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines provide the best form of defence currently available against contracting a potentially fatal COVID-19 infection. Whilst vaccination will offer individuals high levels of personal protection, more information is required as to the ability of those who have been vaccinated to pass on COVID-19 were they exposed to it, even if they do not develop a significant illness themselves as a result of them having been vaccinated.
As such, for the time being AIG is not considering any major changes in the policies and procedures in place for managing arrivals to Ascension. However, AIG will continue to work with experts in PHE to monitor the developing understanding of the impact widespread vaccination has on the virus and may adapt the COVID-19 protocols currently in place in the future if satisfied that it does not place the community at increased risk.
A public meeting will be held in the coming weeks to give members of the public the opportunity to hear about the territory-wide vaccination campaign first-hand. In addition, Georgetown Hospital and AIG will be making further information available about the vaccine itself and the logistics of delivering the vaccination campaign.
If members of the public would like any information in the meantime, or would like to discuss vaccination with a member of hospital staff, they can contact Georgetown Hospital by telephone on 66252 by email through firstname.lastname@example.org.