On Monday, April 26, 2021, the United States and The Bahamas began a joint five-day mission to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses to eight of the Family Islands: Mayaguana, Acklins Island, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Long Island, Inagua, Bimini, and Eleuthera. The mission will span five days (April 26-30), and the first day of the mission alone will distribute 3,200 vaccine doses to Bahamians in need on remote islands. The effort highlights just how deep and how wide the partnership between the United States and The Bahamas goes.
Their first stop, Monday morning, was the remote island of Mayaguana, nearly 330 miles from New Providence. The U.S. Embassy partnered with the Rhode Island National Guard, The Bahamas’ COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Committee, the Ministry of Health, and health providers on the ground on the various islands to carry out the joint mission.
The Rhode Island National Guard provided the aircraft for the mission—a C-12 plane capable of carrying 1650lbs of passenger and cargo plus aircrew. U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) pitched in with a donation of specialized coolers—valued at $40,000—for properly transporting vaccine doses and keeping them viable. The Bahamas’ COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee worked with the Ministry of Health to determine a distribution plan and the locations most in need, and the U.S. Embassy brought everyone together to help execute the joint mission.
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts and Prime Minister the Most Honourable Hubert Minnis met at Odyssey International Airport for the launch of the mission, along with Chairperson of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee Dr. Merceline Dahl Regis, U.S. Embassy Senior Defense Official Commander Kevin Self, Major Philip Aubin of the Rhode Island National Guard, and other key members of the joint effort.
Since 2006, the Rhode Island National Guard has partnered with The Bahamas—primarily the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF)—through the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP pairs the National Guard of a U.S. state or territory with a partner country’s military and security forces but can assist in other areas, as well.
For example, in addition to the vaccine distribution mission, in June of 2020 the RING also donated $20,000 worth of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines to the Ministry of Health, converted to ventilators for use as treatment for respiratory distress due to COVID-19.