The Delta variant of the virus which causes COVID-19 has been detected through genomic sequencing in the samples of two travellers currently in quarantine in the Cayman Islands. Both of these unrelated travellers had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Health Services Authority earlier this year.
Delta is the name for the B.1.617.2 variant, a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that was first detected in India in December 2020 and has spread to become the dominant strain in new infections in the United Kingdom and the USA.
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said, “Given the prevalence of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, it was only a matter of time before it was detected in the Cayman Islands. It will also be of concern that both these people were fully vaccinated: I can report that one is asymptomatic, and the other has only mild symptoms. They both remain in isolation under the care of Public Health. For me, this reiterates and reinforces the need to be vaccinated to benefit from protection against serious illness and death, even with these more infectious variants.”
Studies focused on vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant by Bernal et al on 21st July 2021 found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease, whereas it is 94% effective against the Alpha variant.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been offered on a limited basis in the Cayman Islands, was found to be 60% effective against symptomatic disease and 93% effective against hospitalisation. The studies tracked participants in the UK who were fully vaccinated with both recommended doses.
The Chief Medical Officer remains reassured that the Cayman Islands’ testing and quarantine process greatly reduces the risk of community transmission of all variants of the COVID-19 virus, so there is little risk of the Delta variant spreading to the local community at present.
He outlined precautionary measures that people can take as the Cayman Islands move forward in a phased process to safely reopen borders and restart the tourism industry.
Dr Lee said, “Again, I would say that first and foremost, if you are eligible then you should get vaccinated. Secondly, you can follow the basic precautions against transmission of COVID-19 as recommended by the World Health Organisation including proper hand hygiene, social distancing, limiting your attendance at large gatherings, and wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces.”
Minister of Health Hon. Sabrina Turner said, “I would like to support Dr Lee’s comments and implore that everyone eligible get vaccinated as a matter of urgency. There are several reasons why it is vitally important that as many Cayman Islands residents as possible get vaccinated, but first and foremost is to ensure their own personal safety against contracting the disease, and also to protect the safety and health of their families and loved ones – as well as the community as a whole.”
Minister Turner emphasised that the border entry restrictions and quarantine measures currently in place are protecting against community spread, but the level of public risk will rise as phased reopening begins.
She said, “We are preparing to gradually reopen our borders beginning in mid-September. While the Government is committed to reopening as safely as possible, there is an element of risk of community spread involved. Guarding against this risk through vaccination is our best preparation ahead of time, and following community health mandates at every step of the way will be essential.”
COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics remain operational throughout the Cayman Islands. The up-to-date clinic schedule can be found at: www.hsa.ky/public-health/coronavirus/
World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines can be found at:
A message from Minister of Health Hon. Sabrina Turner can be found at:
A message from the Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee can be found at:
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