In St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) today, the propagation of COVID- 19 infections remain a cause for concern and once we acknowledge this fact, we can indeed put in place the kind of public health measures which have served us well in reducing the illness and deaths in our country.
The latest information published by the Ministry of Health on the epidemic underlines this fact.
There are three key data points that deserve special consideration.
First, in just a few months we have moved from a place of zero covid infections to 33 new infections. Second, we have recorded two new deaths from COVID- 19. And third, whereas as many as 30,000 Vincentians are fully vaccinated with the two doses regimen of most of the vaccines in use in SVG, only a mere 4000 plus Vincentians have opted to take the booster shots.
The low uptake of the boosters is the single biggest error among our population and partially explains the spate of new infections which we are experiencing.
The boosters are needed because inoculation against the virus either through natural infection or the two doses vaccine regimen is not permanent.
Over time, the antibodies stimulated by the vaccine or by natural infection wanes and hence the protection they offer dissipates. Hence, to keep the highest level of antibody protection against infection and illness, far more Vincentians need to take the booster shots than is currently the case. There is no other way.
The spate of new infections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines can also be explained by an iron clad truth of virology. Viruses mutate. And every time a virus mutates, it increases its capacity to evade the immunity provided by vaccines or previous infections. In short, the virus becomes fitter.
This has been particularly true of COVID-19. The variants which have flourished among us in the last three years have probably exhausted the Greek alphabet. To keep up with the new variants, the virologists have had to turn to numbers so that it can allow them to distinguish one variant from the other. A case in point is the Omicron variant which has also produced its own sub variants. And increasingly worrisome is the fact that some of these variants cannot be easily detected by the less rigorous antigen test. Hence we need to rely on the most rigourous of test, the PCR test to detect the spread of the newest variants.
All of this being said, there should be no cause for alarm. But there is certainly a case for vigilance. That vigilance requires that first of all, we should be boosted.
Second, we should wear masks in places where we believe that there is a heightened risk of being exposed to the virus. Third, we have nothing to lose by returning to hand washing as a way to reduce the probability of infection.
And above all, we need to recognize that the pandemic has not completely subsided.
Hence, absent due diligence, we can find ourselves returning to the catastrophic place that we once occupied. No one wants that. Our current covid numbers is therefore a warning, a shot across the bow. Vincentians should therefore take heed.