The BVI is set to receive a final shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the UK this Wednesday.
According to Health Minister Marlon Penn, the vaccines were promised under the terms of a revised Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Health Security Agency and the Government of the Virgin Islands.
The new shipment will include paediatric doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children ages five and older, as well as doses of Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine which provides enhanced protection against the Omicron variant and the original strain.
The Health Minister said COVID-19 trends in the BVI are encouraging, and added that local laboratories have rarely detected the virus in recent times. Penn further noted that severe infection and hospitalisation rates due to COVID are currently low.
But he said the government is still encouraging people to get the vaccine and boosters to protect themselves from the virus.
“I once again urge persons, especially those at higher risk, including persons over 65 years of age and those with chronic diseases to seriously consider vaccination and boosters to increase your level of protection,” Minister Penn said.
Seasonal increase COVID and viral respiratory infections
He also warned that reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that the influenza season may be worsened by a concurrent seasonal increase in both COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections such as RSV, which also causes flu-like symptoms. He noted that these predictions for the United States are important for the BVI because the territory welcomes tourists from that country.
“This situation has the potential to cause higher than normal disease burden and impacts in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region, given our very close ties to the United States and increases in visitor traffic during the tourism season,” the Minister explained.
He said COVID-19 and influenza vaccines are available at the BVI Health Services Authority through its primary-care clinics across the territory.
Significant reduction in COVID globally
The Health Minister revealed that the current statistics show a significant reduction in the transmission and impact of COVID-19 world-wide. Recent reports from the World Health Organisation indicate considerably lower rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
However, there have been increasing numbers of new COVID-19 infections and deaths observed in specific countries – namely, the United States of America, Russia, and Brazil.
Regionally, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has reported very marginal increases in COVID-19 related deaths and cases among its member states.
However, CARPHA said it is important to interpret the current trends cautiously, as most countries have seen an overall decrease in testing.
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