Cayman this week received its final shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines from the British government.
A government statement said the supplies mean that enough vaccines have been provided to fully cover over 45,000 people (nearly 90% of those eligible over 16 years of age).
It also notes that just over 31,000 people have had their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far. This represents 48% of the 65,000 population and 60% of those eligible.
Governor Martyn Roper said, “It is good news that over 31,000 people in our community have had at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and over 20,000 of those have had both doses.”
However, he also said he is concerned that vaccine uptake is slowing resulting in less than the originally planned consignment being shipped on Wednesday.
“As the vaccine has a limited shelf life, we have asked the UK to send a significantly reduced amount of a further 11,700 doses in the last scheduled delivery that arrives today from the UK,” Mr Roper stated.
He further said: “Before the arrival of (the shipment), we already had enough vaccine on Island for 80% of our adult population (approximately 40,000). But as vaccine supply is still challenging, and many countries are desperately seeking supplies, it would be wrong to risk wasting vaccine supply. If uptake increases we can request a further delivery from the UK.”
The vaccines received by the Cayman Islands have variable shelf lives of between one and three months, and need to be used before they reach their expiration date.
Persons who have not yet had the vaccine are encouraged to do so.
“The balance of risks remains heavily weighted in favour of taking the vaccine, which millions of people have taken safely with little or no side-effects. No-one wants to get Covid,” the Governor stated.
It was pointed out that in the UK, even young people who have had a mild case of the disease are at risk of what’s called ‘Long COVID’, suffering from ailments caused by the disease sometimes lasting for months.
New research also suggests that getting COVID is associated with a greater risk of depression, dementia, psychosis and stroke.
Mr Roper went on to stress that “the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and especially our more vulnerable elderly population.”
He added: “We can only safely reopen our borders once the vast majority of the adult population is vaccinated and protected from the worst effects of this terrible virus. I therefore encourage everyone who has yet to be vaccinated to come forward now”.
Meanwhile, as the Cayman Islands reaches the final stages of its vaccination drive, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr John Lee has commended the health team for rising to the challenge posed by the pandemic.
“We have been assisted tirelessly by the staff of the Health Services Authority and their Public Health team who have come out as stars in the management of the threat from COVID-19. I thank them and Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) for allowing us such a great space to use for the programme.”
He also said that the vaccine will encourage safe travel and easier movement of people.
The vaccination centre which was successfully facilitated at Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) to meet the previous high demand is being relocated.
The Public Health Department advises that “due to the progress of the programme, there will no longer be the need to use the Owen Roberts International Airport site as a vaccination centre from the end of April.”
Also, with immediate effect, people attending for vaccination do not need to provide identification to demonstrate that they are ordinarily and legally resident. However, a Photo ID will still be required.