Saint Lucia began the first phase of the COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Out today with several frontliners and key Government officials receiving the first vaccines in a live broadcast, including Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet. The Prime Minister led by example and along with his wife Mrs. Raquel Du Boulay-Chastanet showed support for the team from the Ministry of Health by receiving the vaccines following several nurses, local physicians, fire and police personnel.
Administering the first vaccines is a great milestone for public health officials in reducing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the first person to receive the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in Saint Lucia was Principal Nursing Officer, Julietta Cassius, who opened up about her own experiences with COVID-19.
“I had the COVID-19 virus and I am taking the vaccine for added protection for myself, my family, loved ones, my colleagues, and my community,” said Nurse Cassius. “Vaccines have been proven to work and it is my strong belief that the vaccine is the key to reducing the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities. I urge all Saint Lucians to have the vaccine done.”
Nurse Cassius has held several positions within the local healthcare system and leads changes in the Childhood Immunization Schedule including the introduction of the Hepatitis B birth dose vaccine in 2018 and also lead in the introduction of the Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine in 2019 to allow for gains in the reduction in cervical cancer.
Also receiving the vaccine on Wednesday morning was Minister for Health and Wellness, Senator Honourable Mary Isaac, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar- George, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Glensford Joseph, Deputy Principal Nursing Officer Nurse Tecla Jn. Baptiste, Acting National Epidemiologist, Dr. Dana Gomez, Former National Immunization Manager Nurse Claudius Desir and Laboratory Director-Ezra Long Laboratory, Dr. Wayne Felicien. From the Owen King-EU Hospital, Nursing Director, Ruth Adeysania and Ward Manager Nurse Lylith Daniel received their first dose of the vaccine.
Among the private physicians receiving the vaccine were President of the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association Dr. Merle Clarke, Dr. Stephen King, Dr. Tanya Beaubrun, Dr. Segun Tobias and Dr. Jeanine Payne. Dr. Beaubrun also gave her reason for taking the vaccine: “This pandemic has changed the world. The vaccine is one of the ways to truly be the change, to get us back on track and to help our island recover. I am honoured to play a role in this.”
The Fire Service was also well presented with Station Officer/Inspector Mr. Fernando James and Deputy Fire Chief Mr. George Victorin receiving the vaccine while the police were represented by Superintendent Mashama Sealy who offered some words of wisdom following receiving her first dose.
“I want to be the change that I want to see and be that example that I would like to see hence I am the first officer to take the vaccine,” said Superintendent Sealy. “I encourage others to do so as some measure of protection is better than no protection at all.”
“I want to thank the Lord for blessing us,” the Prime Minister said as he was interviewed following his first dose of the vaccine. “I thank all the frontliners and all the persons who have been working so diligently and putting themselves on the line to serve all of us. I want to thank the Government of India, as the OECS and some of the CARICOM countries, have been in discussion with the Government of India for some time and we are so grateful for them making these vaccines available. I also want to thank Dominica and Barbados, who received the vaccines from India earlier, for sharing with us and making it possible for us to vaccinate our frontliners: nurses, doctors, emergency responders and police. Being able to protect them right now is really about protecting all Saint Lucians because they are the ones who are really at the forefront of fighting this battle.”
The vaccination roll out is being carried out under the theme: Vaccinate: For You. For Yours. For Us. Taking the COVID-19 Vaccine is voluntary and it is free. Over the next few days more health care workers and high risk persons will receive their first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Saint Lucia’s COVID-19 vaccine deployment will have a three-phased approach, targeting priority groups first, based on the level of exposure and risk to COVID-19.