Only two per cent of the people who died from COVID-19 and five per cent of those hospitalised were vaccinated against the disease, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley revealed yesterday.
He gave that information at a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, where adjustments to the public health regulations were announced, including the lifting of restrictions on some activities for fully vaccinated people.
Dr Rowley said although the country has had a steady supply of vaccines since August, there are more than 400,000 eligible citizens who are still not vaccinated. He said the country is still far from the vaccination goal that had been set for November.
He said only 48,000 of the approximately 90,000 students in the 12 to 18 age group had been vaccinated as many parents were hesitant although the children were willing.
The prime minister also said Government is closely monitoring developments with vaccine approvals and if the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves a vaccine for children 5 to 12 his administration would look into making it mandatory.
He added that Government has not taken its eyes off the children of this country and that is why a decision was made to conduct the SEA exams and allow vaccinated Forms 4, 5, and 6 students to attend in-person classes.
He said he got a WhatsApp message from a stranger yesterday morning asking him: “What you saying now because two vaccinated people died.”
Dr Rowley said: “We never said to you that the vaccine will prevent you from getting infected but if you are vaccinated and your body has immunity, then your body will perform better and you will not end up in the ICU or HDU.
In the case of the deaths of vaccinated people, he added, the question arises as to when they were vaccinated.
On the prospects for vaccination boosters, he said: “We are observing the science and authorisation with respect to the use of boosters in the vaccination programme, and we will be guided by the health department on that and the international clearances when they come.”
Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh, who gave an update on the vaccination programme, said about 3,000 people a day are getting vaccinated, and approximately 43 per cent of the population has been administered a first dose while 29,769 had taken the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
There are 589,083 COVID-19 vaccine doses currently available in the country, the minister revealed. He added that outreaches have proven to be successful and roving health teams are going door-to-door in some communities.
Dr Rowley announced adjustments to the Public Health Ordinance Regulations that will take effect from November 1, including allowing bars, restaurants, casinos and cinemas to operate at full capacity and serve alcohol to vaccinated patrons. Public servants will be returning to work in larger numbers and horse racing will resume with only vaccinated patrons allowed in the stands.
From tomorrow, religious services will be extended to 90 minutes but will remain at 25 per cent capacity, public Gatherings to be increased from five to ten people and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) will be allowed to resume full service on the airbridge. Public indoor events at venues like Queen’s Hall, NAPA and SAPA will be allowed at 50 per cent capacity
However, he urged citizens to comply with the protocols for wearing masks and washing hands at all times.
Asked about the reopening of beaches and resumption of team sports, Dr Rowley said: “We’re not there yet…but we’re not too far away.”
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds had earlier revealed that on average there were about 200 new COVID-19 cases a day with only minor variations per week. There were only slight differences across the countries.
The latest data from the Ministry of Health showed there were nine additional deaths 198 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the last 24 hours.