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How safe does Minnis really think Oxford’s AstraZeneca is?

While encouraging all who are eligible to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it finally becomes available in The Bahamas, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis sought to assure the public, during a televised national address on Sunday, that the Oxford AstraZeneca shot – which must be taken in two doses – is in fact safe.

He noted the millions of people worldwide who have already taken it, and while he further noted that there are some common side effects associated, he said any serious side effects, although possible, are “extemely rare”.

It comes as Austria suspended an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine batch while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots.

The Bahamas should be receiving the first shipment of the vaccine – which has been repeatedly delayed for weeks now – on Wednesday, March 10. If it does arrive by then, it won’t be the initially stated first tranche of 100,000 doses from the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization’s COVAX facility which the Minnis administration has reportedly already paid for. It is instead a bonus – a donation of 20,000 doses from the government of India.

In December, Health Minister Renward Wells said $4.5M had been budgeted for the procurement of the vaccine throughout the country and that a $250,000 deposit had already been paid to COVAX for 80,000 doses of it.

The Prime Minister said these doses from India are legit and have been pre-qualified by the WHO and certified by the Caribbean Regulatory System, and he stressed that it is important everyone who can take it, does so.

“Let me say it again – the COVID-19 vaccines we will use in The Bahamas are safe,” he said. He also called on all eligible Bahamians and residents to ignore what he said was fake news, lies and misinformation about the vaccine being spread on social media and across the internet.

Well, prominent attorney Wayne Munroe, QC is playing devil’s advocate, reasoning that if the Prime Minister and his administration feel so strongly that the vaccine is in fact safe, the government should have no issue with assuming any liability for it.

“Let us be quite clear about this, the manufacturers of these vaccines cannot incur any liability if in six months’ time it’s discovered that they will kill you. They will have no liability for the quarter of a billion people who have already been vaccinated,” he said.

“They will say we told you we were still testing this, we told you what we knew to be true at the time, we didn’t know that this would do this to you, and with a product liability case, you will have no case against the manufacturer, and you also would have no case against the person who actually puts this medication in your arm,” Munroe explained, adding “I was interested to read the report that The Bahamas government has not yet made a decision on whether to assume liability for these vaccinations.”

Munroe believes that if the Minnis administration wanted to do away with vaccine skepticism and really thought it was safe to take, accepting liability now for any future adverse consequences would be a simple thing to do.

“It is within the power of The Bahamas government to remove that argument, and I would call on them to do it. I think it is criminal to put a medication on your public that you know as a fact there is no recourse against the manufacturer, that you know as a fact there is no recourse against you but you sell it as safe. If you know it is safe then take liability for it. Plain and simple; nothing more, nothing less.”

Prime Minister Minnis has gone on record to say he will take the vaccine and he will encourage his family, friends and colleagues to do so as well.

Following his address to the nation, social media threads showed Bahamians asking if he will take his shot on tv as US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have done.

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