Even with the emergence of vaccines, the public should not expect to step away from mask-wearing and other COVID precautions in the near future.
Jamaican doctor and professor, Peter Figueroa, warned the COVID-19 vaccines despite early results being encouraging still had far too many unknown quantities with regard to its overall effectiveness.
“The vaccines are not a silver bullet, we still need the non-pharmaceutical measures, the mask and the hand hygiene, the physical distancing and avoiding crowds, especially indoors,” said Figueroa while addressing the University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s Forum on COVID-19 Vaccination yesterday.
Figueroa explained that it was still to be determined how effective the vaccine would be over an extended period, if at all, particularly with regard to the spread of the virus.
“Important issues to address…the actual duration of the vaccine efficacy is not known yet. We have to follow those who get the vaccine and see how long the duration lasts and the effectiveness of the vaccine may decline or it can actually increase over time,” he said.
Professor Clive Landis, chairman of the University of the West Indies (UWI) COVID-19 Task Force, similarly explained that the vaccine’s impact was hard to be determined at this time as public vaccinations have only just begun.
“The first trials of these vaccines were begun in June so we are now six months into it. The first public vaccinations began just 10 days ago so we’re only 10 days into that so we will only know the answer to that when many months are passed. It might be six months it might be six years. It might be sixty years until the time has passed,” he said.
Figueroa also said it would time some time before the Caribbean has wide access to the vaccine.
“When can we expect some vaccines? Low and middle-income countries are unlikely to get vaccines before March or April and it will be very little initially. We will get a bit more in the middle of the year and then we will get some more towards the end of the year,” said Professor Figueroa.
Last month, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he had made applications to the World Health Authority so that Trinidad and Tobago would be listed among the nations receive vaccines as soon as possible.
He, however, said while it was important to promote confidence in the vaccine as based on the trials all steps had been taken to properly test the vaccine before it was made public, he did not believe a mandatory order to take the vaccine should be put in effect.
“I don’t think the vaccine should be made mandatory, certainly not. And at this stage it is very important that we have leaders of government and other leaders as well as doctors and nurses willing to step forward and take the vaccine first in any given country,” said the professor.
“It’s natural for some people to have reservations, to have questions,” he said.