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MOH Says Still a-lot to learn about Vaccines AND Variants

PRESS RELEASE — The pandemic is still raging and COVID-19 continues to affect the population. We should be vigilant, and maintain the public health measures that the Ministry of Health have recommended. While we have documented a decline in the number of reported cases during this current wave, we must continue to adhere to protocols, including vaccination as the most effective strategy.

Viruses mutate resulting in the emergence of more transmissible variants as demonstrated by SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. More alarmingly, we expect COVID-19 disease to be associated with the development of newer variants. What we know is that the more unvaccinated persons we have in our population, the more likely it is for variants to reproduce and spread. Why??? Unvaccinated people have less protection against COVID-19 thereby allowing more of the virus to multiply in them if they become infected.

On the contrary, the vaccinated person has a level of immunity, which creates a hostile environment for the virus to multiply, thus protecting the community from developing severe disease. There is still a lot to learn about how variants adversely affect vaccinated persons.

During this wave, we noted more people who were vaccinated becoming infected – referred to as breakthrough infections. However, symptoms were generally mild, were of a shorter duration, or in many cases, asymptomatic.

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and provide significant levels of protection, ranging from less infection, decreased severe disease, minimal hospitalization and deaths. Some people who are vaccinated may be infected because vaccines are not 100% effective. Consequently, it is of utmost importance to continue practicing public health measures even after a person is vaccinated.

Therefore, it is important and prudent for the eligible population to get vaccinated, which covers the first, second or booster dose. Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge for all of us, but we must keep up the fight and remain resolute. The Ministry of Health encourages everyone, especially the youth to get vaccinated. Presently, Saint Lucia is progressing towards the procurement of vaccines for children 5 to 11 years.

The hope is that as soon as the pediatric vaccines are available, it will be administered in Saint Lucia. Saint Lucia’s vaccination coverage as of February 14, 2022, is 28.5% – very far from achieving the 70% milestone. This milestone can only be achieved by widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccines. Let us all take personal responsibility – get vaccinated to protect ourselves, loved ones and the general population.

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