Health authorities in Cayman are encouraging residents, especially Caymanians, to maintain the high rate of COVID-19 vaccinations after evidence has emerged that the uptake might be at risk of slowing down.
The further opening of the borders and by the economy is hugely dependent on the success of the vaccination programme, a policy which has been pursued by the incumbent government.
Another concern is that fewer Caymanians than non-nationals are coming forward for the jab.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Lee, reported this week that to date, 90% of those aged over 70 and 85% of those aged over 60 have had at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination.
Across the world, the vaccination is seen as the pathway for countries out of both the public health crisis and longterm economic damage unless they safely open up for commercial activity.
Appearing on the Radio Cayman talkshow, For the Record with Orrett "OC" Connor this past week, both the CMO and the Head of Nursing at the Health Service Authority(HSA), Dr Hazel Brown, addressed those concerns from a Cayman perspective.
Dr Brown said it’s been observed that more non-nationals than Caymanians have been coming forward for the vaccine, a situation which she attributes to the impact of the pandemic in their own home countries.
“I think what we have remaining right now are probably more the generational Caymanians than anyone else. I believe that most other persons, having seen the effects of COVID on their homeland, responding much, much more effectively."
Commenting on the measures taken locally, the HSA Head of Nursing is worried that Cayman could be risking being a “victim of its own success” if the public becomes too relaxed.
“I think we need to be alert to what is happening in the world,” she said.
Taking the global view, Dr Brown posed the question:
“How many persons have died today in other countries that didn't have the lockdown...that didn't have it as effectively as we have handled it, and recognise that that can happen again?”
She is concerned that if Cayman's vaccination programme falters especially amongst the ‘generational Caymanian population’ the risk of a resurgence in cases could put the economy at risk and the health service under severe pressure.
“At some point in time, we have to open our borders our economy is going to get back to its full potential, and then persons who are not vaccinated, are going to be the persons who are then going to be filling the critical care beds," she stated.
So I really want us to think about that. Not just because we don't have COVID here and we have not had a severe problem per se and no local death, it doesn't mean that it can't happen,” Dr Brown cautioned.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Lee, noted that “we're very close to reaching that 90% of the over 60s and at that point we suggested that we reduce the quarantine period.”
In further urging residents to take up the vaccination offer, the CMO said: “I would encourage people to come forward because I think it is inevitable that we're going to open the borders only when we reach good vaccination of the whole population... by that I mean 80% of the entire population with children included.”
Dr Lee said getting to that level of vaccination was now even more necessary due to the emergence of new variants of the original COVID-19 virus which are said to be even more transmissible.