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No Covid-19 indemnity laws in Grenada

Health Minister Nickolas Steele - indemnity clause is to prevent malicious delay of vaccination roll out

According to an October 30, 2020, COVAX Facility update found on the website of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Grenada and other countries allocating COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, are required to indemnify manufacturers for vaccines deployed in their territories.

The document said that COVID-19 vaccine makers are “reluctant” to deliver COVID-19 vaccines if the “risk of unforeseen claims due to injury associated with the vaccine,” is not addressed and that the “lack of such indemnification will limit or delay access to vaccines.”

Responding to questions posed by THE NEW TODAY during Tuesday’s Post-Cabinet media brief in St. George’s, Health and Social Security Minister, Nickolas Steele, said the “indemnity clause is (geared) to prevent the malicious delay of a vaccine roll out because you have laws that allow somebody to be litigious and malicious.”

He said that, “there has been a request from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), in our instance to ensure that there is no type of legislation like that in the country that would delay the vaccination process.”

“There is no legislation saying that there is an indemnity or is there any legislation specific to vaccination penalties or so because we do not have manufacturers in Grenada,” he said.

Grenada is scheduled to receive 45,600 Covid-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility, a global initiative coordinated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), UNICEF, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO, aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for about 20% of a participating country’s population.

According to Minister Steele, the island is due to receive the first shipment under the COVAX facility “between the first quarter and the end of 2021,” however, he said that government is exploring other options.

“…Through the COVAX Facility, 20% of our national vaccination needs is supposed to be delivered to us sometime between the first quarter and the end of 2021 and as such while we are most grateful for this (but) we do not rely on this alone,” he said.

“We have been doing our bit to access vaccines for purchase as well as on a bilateral basis as has been done with the first batch of vaccines that have arrived and we will continue to do so,” he added.

The minister went on: “We do expect imminently to have to make payment for vaccines and are prepared and ready to do so. We do appreciate any other assistance because vaccines come at a great cost and we will hold hard and fast to our policy that we are not going to charge our citizens for the vaccine in order to make sure that the rollout happens as quickly as possible but any assistance in that is very much appreciated”.

The British government, which has ordered 400 million vaccines doses for its people and will have many left over, said it will donate most of its surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries.

Health Minister Steele disclosed that “there are discussions right now” in terms of accessing other brands of COVID-19 vaccines,” however, he said “any choice must be approved by the United States-based Center for Disease Control (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada, European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Union.

“…Any of those four (4) approve a vaccine as they have with pfizer, Moderna (and) AstraZeneca (to name a few)…then we will begin acquiring those vaccines…,” he said, quickly adding that, “right now I would say that there is an imminent announcement on other vaccines being approved…and once that announcement is made, we have already had the advanced information (and started discussions about accessing those vaccines.”

According to the Minister, another batch of COVID-19 vaccines is due to arrive imminently on the island but he opted not to delve into the details stating, “I will not say anything unless I have it in my hand…because throughout this COVID-19 experience, logistics has always been challenging”.

“So, once I or the Ministry has the next batch of vaccines we will make that announcement,” he said.