By Staff Writer
With more than half of persons over 60 already vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, the government says it's aiming for a 90 per cent threshold of that age group as a target to ease the quarantine restrictions and ultimately reopening the borders.
“Re-opening of our borders is contingent on getting 90% of those older than 60 to be fully vaccinated. We have vaccinated approximately 55% so far,” Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin disclosed on a press conference on Thursday.
“Cabinet has agreed once we reach 90% border controls can be changed to allow incoming travellers to quarantine for 10 days instead of 14,” he said.
Once that target is reached, Premier McLaughlin said travellers must have a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure as well as on arrival at the airport.
“They will also need to have completed a valid vaccination programme as approved by the Chief Medical Officer and a negative PCR test on day 10 before being approved to leave quarantine.”
He also informed that “going forward COVID-19 vaccines will be limited to those who are legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands.”
Critical to all that however, is the government’s objective to vaccinate 5,000 of persons aged over 60. To date 2,300 have received their shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being administered in two doses.
But with a little over half - 55 per cent - of the over 60s, and 65 per cent of those aged over 70 already vaccinated, persuading others in that age bracket has become a priority in the interest of their own health and the wider community interest.
At the current rate, Mr McLaughlin said, it was hoped that they would reach the target by month-end.
“I believe that on the current trajectory. We should hit there at the end of this month. But again, but that depends on people from that demographic going forward to get the vaccine now we are at 65 our yes 65.”
Saying that he was “quite pleased” with the overall take up of the vaccine, the Premier nevertheless admitted that there were some challenges.
“I think we're all quite pleased with how well it's going,” he said but acknowledged that “the last push is usually the hardest in any endeavour.”
It has emerged that there are some pockets of vaccine resistance from within that age group and the government is now appealing to the churches to assist in persuading those who are reluctant to get inoculated.
“Some people are still requiring convincing,” the Premier disclosed, “but what I am getting anecdotally is that the more people that are vaccinated, the more people that can that can give a testimonial about it to the others, the more likely it is I believe that people are going to come on board.”
PREACHING TO GET VACCINE CONVERTS
The Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee has been in contact with the church leaders, he reported, including The Seventh-Day Adventist conference and the Cayman Ministers Association, “because the church plays a huge role in this community.”
He said Dr Lee has been explaining the science of the vaccine to the church leaders “in the hope that it helps to break down some of the obstacles and some of the resistance by some people within churches to taking vaccines.”
Meanwhile, CMO Dr Lee reported that he was quite pleased with the pace of the overall vaccination programme.
“So far there have been 11,856 jabs given across the Cayman Islands, which is a phenomenal amount. Of those, there are 3939 which are people who've had their second doses.”
In all, 12.2 percent of the overall population overall has received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Regarding the crucial 60-plus age group, Dr Lee commented: “It's really encouraging to hear that 65% of our over 70s have received the first injections and 55% of our over-60s. Those are very encouraging figures.”
HE Governor Martyn Roper added echoed the importance of reaching the critical 90 per cent threshold of persons in that age group coming forward to receive their vaccines.
“As Premier and Dr Lee set out, we need 90% of the over 60s to be vaccinated before we look at opening the islands up any further.”
Speaking to the wider community he added: “We are making good progress towards that target but everyone needs to play their role. It’s vitally important that you take your vaccine when offered. As much as the protection for you individually, taking a vaccine is for our community, particularly to protect our elderly and vulnerable.”
He again urged the public to rely only on accurate information about the vaccines.
SUPPLYING AND ADAPTING
Governor Roper confirmed that a third shipment of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will be arriving on the 11 February BA flight.
“This time we have been able to secure more doses than the first and second consignments. The next consignment will consist of 15,000 doses. The third consignment will take us to a total of 38,000 doses, which will vaccinate close to 20,000 people. My office remains in touch with London about subsequent supplies on the next two BA flights in February and March,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Premier McLaughlin has spoken about the government having to adapt to changing circumstances in the management of the impact of the pandemic in Cayman.
“We really can't plan too far ahead because it's changing so fast. We just have to do the best we can given the particular circumstances. In another two weeks or three weeks we may well come here and say something significantly different if there are changes.”
It was also confirmed that Cayman has chosen not to take up its share of the global COVAX vaccination distribution, instead allowing its allocation to be shared with other countries facing challenges with their vaccine supply.