Get vaccinated as soon as possible, urges Professor Figueroa

Chair of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group, Professor Peter Figueroa, has reiterated the need for persons to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.   

Pointing to the over 111 million confirmed cases globally of coronavirus disease, with 2.5 million deaths reported, he warned that this is a serious pandemic that must be addressed.

“Aside from the non-pharmaceutical measures – the importance of wearing a mask; physical distancing; avoiding crowds; staying at home when possible – the best thing is to get the vaccine as soon as it is available.”

His comments came during The University of the West Indies COVID-19 Task Force open forum for members of the public and regional media on COVID-19 vaccination, yesterday.

“And it is good to see that the vaccine has now come to the Caribbean. Already a few weeks ago the Cayman Islands; British Virgin Islands; Anguilla; Montserrat – they have been given the vaccine. And now it has come to Barbados and Guyana. So, it is very important that the frontline health workers, and essential frontline workers get vaccinated so that they are protected. And when the doctors, nurses and other health workers are vaccinated, this also helps to prevent them unwittingly passing it on to their patients, if they become infected.”

Professor Figueroa highlighted that globally, already 200 million doses of the vaccine have been given – the United States as many as 60 million; China 40 million; India 11 million; Israel 7 million and the United Kingdom 17 million.

“So, the vaccine is being rolled out internationally. It is being done more so in high-income countries first, but now it is getting to middle-income and low-income countries and those Caribbean countries that have not got it yet, will be getting it shortly,” he said.

Professor Figueroa also told participants what is impressive is that with the rollout of the vaccine, “we are seeing a dramatic decline globally in the number of new cases of COVID”.

“If we look for instance, at the United States where they have had 20 million confirmed cases and half a million deaths due to COVID – since they have been rolling out the vaccine in the last six weeks – when you look at the number of new COVID cases, they have declined by 40 per cent. The hospitalisations have declined by 30 per cent, and the deaths have declined by 16 per cent. This is just in the past six weeks if we look at the average number over the last 14 days.

“So, this is the impact of the vaccine rollout in the United States – it’s remarkable, and we are already seeing an impact globally. The vaccines that are available have undergone very careful review by regulatory authorities – by the World Health Organisation – the vaccines are highly effective and safe,” he added. (TL)

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