Health Dept. expects more COVID vaccines to arrive Thursday
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Amid the challenges the island’s vaccination campaign faces, Puerto Rico Health Department Vaccination Program Director Iris Cardona Gerena announced Monday that around 16,000 additional coronavirus vaccine doses have been allocated to the island and are expected to arrive Thursday.
As Puerto Rico is currently receiving around 41,450 first COVID doses weekly, the new delivery could increase that number to 57,450 doses per week.
“There is an allocation of 10,000 additional doses for chain pharmacies, particularly the first to start is Walgreens Puerto Rico,” Cardona said. “There is an extra allocation of about 30% in Moderna doses, which is about 6,000 doses per week that will be seen starting this Thursday.”
When a member of the press asked Cardona if the Health Department and Puerto Rico National Guard reached an agreement to determine if people over 65 must get an appointment to get the vaccine administered, she said they are “trying to organize the process.”
“We are now vaccinating people over 65; we have always said that we want it to be organized, fair, adequate and comfortable for the population,” Cardona said. “That is why we are trying to organize it with appointments and turns.”
The vaccination program director said more than 470,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to island providers so far and that “they should be inside people’s arms.”
“Our Immunization Registry System reports around 320,000 doses administered as of Friday,” Cardona said.
Regarding vaccine providers receiving training to speed up vaccine administration, Cardona said providers will have access to the Puerto Rico Electronic Immunization Information System, a matter where she recognized “there’s room for improvement”
“The process of vaccinating is much faster than the process of manually feeding this system,” she said. “We’ll keep improving.”
As for complaints that have been raised by citizens who have faced difficulties receiving the second vaccine dose, Cardona said those who haven’t received it “must move to get the second dose” as they still have a chance to do so.
“What is happening is that … in the case of the [Pfizer] vaccine, the second dose must be administered in 21 days, while Moderna’s second dose must be administered in 28 days. The person might have arrived the day before or lost their due date, but there’s no problem with that,” she said. “This alters the vaccines that have been thawed and the number of vaccines available in a day.”
“Scientific data reports that it doesn’t matter if you didn’t arrive on your 21st or 28th day to get the second dose, you should [try to get] the vaccine as soon as possible, so its effectiveness won’t be compromised,” Cardona said, emphasizing that citizens have up to 42 days to get the second COVID vaccine.
Meanwhile, Cardona said people who had a positive COVID-19 test result despite having received the first inoculation can obtain the second shot once they complete the isolation phase.
“Every person who has had COVID-19 is invited to get vaccinated, as it is necessary to develop long-term immunity,” she said.
However, there is an exception with people who have received the monoclonal antibody treatment, Cardona noted. They must wait 90 more days “as a scientific precaution.”
“This is in case there’s a competition between the antibodies from the treatment versus the antibodies that the vaccine generates,” she said, adding that the 90-day waiting period also applies to patients who had plasma administered during convalescence.