Special freezer to store vaccines in Saba
THE HAGUE--The islands are ready: the necessary equipment is there, the staff has been trained, but nothing has been done yet in the Caribbean part of the kingdom. “Due to a logistically complex operation,” the vaccines have still not been sent, the NOS reports.
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport VWS said it was committed to providing the Caribbean islands with vaccines at the same time as the European Netherlands. Due to a delay in the vaccination programme in the Netherlands, the planned delivery on the islands was also postponed.
In addition, the distance between the continents and the islands makes the delivery of vaccines more difficult. “The infrastructure and facilities are different and sometimes more limited than in the Netherlands; for example, for the registration systems,” says special vaccination expert Marc Sprenger. “These things must be in order before the vaccines arrive.”
The islands must meet strict conditions, and this is ensured by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM and Sprenger, former top man of the RIVM. This concerns, for example, the security of storage, the recruitment of personnel and the design of injection locations.
Arrival of the vaccine freezer on Statia
“Vaccines are scarce and it is essential that the risk of waste is kept to a minimum,” says Sprenger.
Due to the island character, the preparations for the three Dutch municipalities in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom (the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) are often different than in the European Netherlands. Because of those specific circumstances, a completely different vaccination strategy is even used for Saba and St. Eustatius. There, all adults are vaccinated at once.
Sprenger has visited the six islands together with the RIVM and everything now seems fine. “All islands have shown that they meet the RIVM preconditions. So, the vaccination programme can be started,” he says. The vaccines will arrive in Aruba and Bonaire on February 16, Curaçao on February 17, and St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba on February 19, according to Sprenger.
Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten and Bonaire will receive Pfizer vaccines for healthcare personnel plus seniors 60 years and older in the first phase. The AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to be used for the rest of the population ages 18-60. Saba and St. Eustatius receive a first delivery of the Moderna vaccine.
Dutch people who stay on an island for a longer period, such as retirees, investors, or hibernators, are also eligible, according to Sprenger, “on the condition that they are still on the island to receive the second injection.” The goal is to have all adults who want it vaccinated before the hurricane season, which starts in June