The Turks and Caicos Islands is expecting a delivery of the vaccine specifically for children aged between 5 and 11 years in the very near future, this according to the Director for Health Services, Dr. Nadia Astwood.
Dr. Astwood made the revelation, while speaking virtually at a news conference on Thursday, February 24, at the studios of Spotlight Communications in Turtle Cove, Providenciales, which was called by Health Minister Hon. Jamell Robinson, to update the country on all things COVOD-19 and the steps government was taking to combat the disease.
She said the aim of acquiring such vaccine was to guard against the spreading of the virus, especially in schools, but also to protect the vulnerable at home.
“Getting your children vaccinated will help to keep the schools open for face-to-face learning as well as help to protect those who live in households with vulnerable individuals,” she said, also taking the opportunity to urge parents to make their interest know.
“I am encouraging those with children in the 5 to 11 years age group, who are interested in getting your children protected with the COVID19 vaccine, particularly those with children with chronic diseases, as well as those with children, who live in households with the vulnerable, to register your interest with your health care provider so that when the vaccine becomes available, you can be counted,” she said.
She said vaccine for those 12 years and up was still available.
Astwood also used the opportunity to further promote the booster vaccine, towards which there has appears to be apathy.
“Those who are vaccinated, you are eligible to receive booster doses three months after completing the primary series of the vaccine. The booster is strongly recommended to augment your immune system. With time, the effects of the vaccine can wane, and the booster will provide that additional support which is needed.
“The vaccine along with the booster are the single most important actions which can protect you, your family and the wider community from COVID-19 and allow us to move forward. The vaccine is readily available through all of our health care facilities including the private sector with whom the MOH (Ministry of Health) has partnered with at no cost. Register or visit your health care provider to get your shot,” she said.
She added: “Although the Turks and Caicos Islands has made great strides in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the numbers reflected on the national dashboard are much more favorable than in recent times, we must all act cautiously and responsibly particularly as we are still living within a global pandemic.
“Although the most recent wave in the TCI is subsiding and the trends being observed locally match what has been occurring in other countries, the course of the pandemic remains unpredictable. Although this surge can largely be attributed to the omicron variant of COVID-19 and although this has largely been touted as a milder variant, it has still been responsible for hospitalizations and deaths globally.”
SUB OMICRON VARIANT
She said the most recent results of sequencing of samples received by the TCI from Cayman this past week, revealed that 22 of the 26 samples were of the omicron variant.
“This was much as expected based on the trajectory of infections in the TCI since December 2022. The omicron variant has been responsible for the most recent global surge in cases of COVID19,” she said, adding that scientists have detected an omicron sub-variant, which was being monitored.
“There are also other variants in circulation and there are likely new variants which will emerge in future, including the BA2 variant of omicron which has been steadily rising in numbers globally.
“To date, this variant has been identified in at least 80 countries and 48 states within the USA. Initial data has shown that this variant of omicron is more transmissible than the BA 1 omicron variant, meaning that it can spread more easily. This variant is still being monitored closely globally as well as by the TCI,” Astwood continued.
She stated that there had been reinfection on a minute level of the omicron virus.
“There is also early evidence of reinfection in a minority of persons who have previously been infected with the omicron BA1 variant. Research is still ongoing on this sub variant and what it means in the real world and its likely impact and the severity of the disease it may cause etc.
“Nevertheless, the World Health Organization is recommending that the BA2 subvariant continue to be classified as a variant of concern and should be monitored by public health authorities as a sublineage of omicron,” Astwood said.