Letters & Opinion

The Delta Variant in St. Lucia: What We Need to Know

By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

VERY RECENTLY, the Chief Medical Officer of St. Lucia indicated that samples which had been sent for testing had returned indicating that three persons in St. Lucia had tested positive for the Delta variant, a more deadly strain of COVID-19.

As I always do, I began to read up on the variant. I came up on some very important information released by ‘abc’ news, on the official MSN site. I thought I should share this information with you.

The following are some things that we need to know:

The Delta variant is more contagious than earlier strains of COVID. Delta is more contagious because it “sheds more virous into the air, making it easier to reach other people”. According to Dr. Lorne Miller, a researcher at Lundquist Institute in Torrance, CA. Dr. Miller explained that smaller amounts of particles are needed to cause infections compared to the original strain.

It means therefore, that observing the protocols outlined by the Ministry of Health has become a greater imperative. Or we either do or die!

The variant could cause more serious illness in unvaccinated persons. According to the article, scientists are now racing to study the severity of the delta variant in real time. Notwithstanding, scientists have been  able to differentiate between the Delta variant and the Alpha variant through molecular testing of genes.

It is important to note that scientists have revealed that there was an increased risk of hospitalization in patients with Delta when adjusting, trying to get the required results, for common factors such as age, sex, underlying health conditions, and time of disease.

Indeed, a Canadian study has showed definitively that the Delta variant was more likely to cause hospitalization, ICU (meaning intensive care unit.) admissions and death. This is frightening, isn’t it? I have heard the CMO say that several times, but I have read it for myself which is a confirmation of what she has been saying.

I have heard many people say the authorities are not telling us the truth. Well, we need to read the information for ourselves.

Delta is now the dominant variant in the United States of America and around the world. And, indeed, in St. Lucia too. Cases are skyrocketing particularly where vaccination intake or uptake has been particularly slow. At this point I need to ask the pertinent question: Does the situation of slowness in taking the vaccine exists in St. Lucia? Well, with the existence of the Delta variant, what can we do about it?

My dear reader, I leave you to answer.

Information coming out of the US indicate that 90% of COVID cases there are currently caused by the Delta variant. Considering that the Delta variant is now in St. Lucia, this is frightening.

COVID vaccines still work against the Delta variant. According to De. Abir (Abby)Hussein, clinical infectious disease assistant professor and associate medical director for the infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle, Washington has said most persons currently hospitalized in the United States are unvaccinated. And this is not far from the truth. Only the day before I heard the CMO say that 100% of the persons hospitalised at the respiratory hospital are unvaccinated. Then what more information do we need to satisfy ourselves?

And more critically, there is a frightening rise in the number of persons being affected with COVID! How can we save St. Lucia, Fair Helen, the cherished land of our birth? How can we protect our loved ones, extended family and friends?  I leave you dear reader to answer the question for yourselves.

The ‘abc’ news item indicated that the Delta variant is hitting younger, unvaccinated people harder. More COVID cases are being reported in teens, younger and middle-aged adults. That’s not because Delta is more inherently more dangerous for younger people, but rather, because younger people are less likely to be fully vaccinated.

At this point, it needs to be said that a vaccine for younger people had not been approved. Just recently I heard that the Pfizer vaccine has now been approved for youngsters 12 years and above. But the vaccine is still not widespread.

Indeed, it has been reported that some 52,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been donated to the Government of St. Lucia by the Government of the United States of America. But we need to move fast to offer the vaccine to our younger folks.

We should always remember that about 72% of are population in St. Lucia are young people between the aged of 0-35 years. And if the Delta variant has to move quickly through that cohort of the population, then we perish. We should not take that for a joke!

Dr. Hussein has explained that in the United States efforts have been made to vaccinate older high-risk people, particularly those who live in nursing homes. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, has confirmed that 80% of adults over the age of 65 years have been fully vaccinated and more than 90% of adults over 65 years have has one of two doses.

I do not have the data for St. Lucia for that age group. However, I am aware that the Ministry of Health has made a concerted effort to vaccinate residents of the various Home where the older folks reside.

As I write, the Minister of Health, Wellness and Elderly affairs at a local press conference indicated that with the Delta variant in our country we must become more vigilant, and his government will do all in its power to fight COVID.

At this same conference, the Prime Minister had said that his government will use a holistic approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He took the opportunity, in his introductory remarks, to encourage the populace to wear mask and all the other key protocols which has been established.

In conclusion, I must indicate that I am an educator, if you do not already know, and I have tried to share the information on the Delta variant that has come before me. And It is clear that a lot more information has to be dissimilated to the general public. And that function is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Health but all citizens who are capable of doing so, whether in English or Patwa.

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