Growing Covid number, low vaccinations a worry – CMO
DR SIMONE KEIZER- BEACHE, this country’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has described the growing number of positive COVID19 cases and low vaccination figures as “a very worrying situation”, especially when compared to other countries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).
According to the most recent figures from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is listed first in the ECCU for having the most active COVID19 cases, but last on the graph showing the percentage of population to receive the COVID19 vaccine.
“We have community spread, but it’s evident there is active community spread and, couple that with the low vaccine uptick – because already, you have world-wide evidence that the more… persons vaccinated in your population, the less your spread is going to be,” Keizer-Beache said in a recent interview with SEARCHLIGHT.
According to SVG’s COVID19 report dated June 13, there are 246 active cases. In recent times, cases have been recorded daily. Recent figures also indicate that there i s active spread of the virus on mainland St Vincent and on Bequia in the Grenadines.
And while more than 22,000 vaccines have been administered locallyroughly six per cent of the total population have been vaccinated – that’s a long way from the 75 per cent goal required for attaining herd immunity.
Meanwhile, statistics from the ECCB dated June 14 show that Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada and Montserrat currently have zero active cases.
Antigua and Barbuda has one active case, and St Lucia has 111 active cases.
St Kitts and Nevis, which recently initiated a lockdown and curfew, have 123 active cases.
However, Anguilla and St Kitts and Nevis both sit at the top of the leader board as it relates to vaccination.
In Anguilla, 60.3 per cent of the population has received the first dose of a vaccine, while 36.8 per cent have been fully vaccinated. In St Kitts and Nevis, 44.8 per cent of the population has received one dose of a COVID19 vaccine, while 19.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
“There is stark evidence, there is world-wide evidence, follow the protocols, wear your masks, get vaccinated and test, be willing to get tested. We are very concerned about the fact that we are doing this screening in schools for the children, and there are still so many parents who are saying no, the child can’t be tested. Why wouldn’t you want to know if your child is quietly infected with
this COVID….?” Keizer-Beache queried.
She noted that while it is true that infected children may not experience extreme sickness, they are able to pass it on to other children and adults, including older persons who are not vaccinated, and can succumb to the adverse effects of the virus.
The CMO told SEARCHLIGHT that there has been an increase locally in diabetes, cardiac and pulmonary problems as a result of COVID19.
And she stressed the importance of mask use, physical distancing, sanitising and vaccination.
Keizer-Beache noted that persons in other countries like Trinidad who are interested in being vaccinated, are ineligible because preference is being given to identified age groups and priority groups.
“St Vincent right now, we are saying as long as you’re over 18, come and get your vaccine. We have vaccines. We don’t want to be in a position where in another couple weeks where we don’t have vaccines, people begin to realise, ‘listen this is something we should have’ and then you have a situation where you have increased demand and no vaccine to fill that demand. We cannot afford to get there. People need to act now,” she said.
The CMO explained that while there has been significant push on mass media platforms, there are still a lot of people who do not understand the concept of COVID19 vaccines.
And she said health authorities are in the process of doing more market research to help determine the reasons for the hesitancy surrounding the taking of COVID19 vaccines locally.
This will include small outreach programmes in spaces conducive to promoting safe face-to-face interaction, with the use of fully vaccinated staff.
Keizer-Beache said the COVID19 task force is still supportive of a COVID19 lottery, a suggestion made recently by Stephen Joachim, Chief Financial Officer of the Mustique Company, as a form of vaccination incentive.