The perfect formula for a massive outbreak of COVID-19 exists in Grenada as explained by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Shawn Charles.
The combination of low immunity among the population, limited vaccinations and high resistance to taking the vaccination or being tested for COVID-19 are ideal conditions for an outbreak “if we do not alter our course,” he warned.
“We need everyone’s help,” Dr Charles said, echoing the May Day call from Minister of Labour Hon Peter David to the Grenada Trades Union Council for “no reservations or timidity and all parties must cooperate” in combatting misinformation about COVID-19.
Speaking at the post Cabinet press briefing on Tuesday (May 04), Dr Charles acknowledged that people are tired of even hearing the word COVID, but Grenada remains vulnerable as long as people refuse the vaccination, which is available to anyone 18 years or older. He expressed concern about the level of resistance among front line workers, particularly in the health care sector. While he said there are significant numbers of persons working in health care who have not been vaccinated, he was unable to provide any specifics. Similarly, when asked if the Ministry could provide a breakdown in the categories of persons who have taken the vaccine, he was unable to provide numbers or percentages. He said of the 16,000-plus vaccinations administered so far, these include people in the accommodation sector, and a “mix of many other individuals; a varied number of persons.”
“We would like to see better uptake in our front line staff,” he said, including health care workers and retail employees.
When Ministry of Health officials reach out to individuals who may have been exposed to the virus; some people are defiant and refuse to be tested.
“All of these challenges are compounding our situation,” he said.
When the government began rolling out its vaccination programme in February, the daily line-ups for vaccines ranged from 400 to 600 persons. Now, according to Dr Charles, there are 300 or more people getting vaccinated a day, and many times it is less than 100 persons receiving their first dose. With such a poor turnout and the influence of misinformation and scare tactics, Dr Charles said “this bubble” of being free of COVID-19 depends on a much higher level of immunity and the population adhering to the standard protocols of face masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing – all of which are widely ignored.
“How long our fortunes will continue in is our hands,” he predicted, noting that people should pay attention to what is happening in the rest of the world and in the Caribbean.
“We remain surrounded by countries that have community spread,” he warned.
There have been no reports of any adverse side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine; in the event of an extremely rare blood clot associated with the vaccine, he said Grenada is equipped to respond.
When asked about the variants emerging in other countries that are infecting children and whether government is considering vaccinating people under 18 years, Dr Charles said Grenada has not considered this as the AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be approved for children.
“So we have not embarked on vaccinating children,” he said, adding “this is not a priority group and we do not have vaccines that were created to cover this age group as yet.”
Dr Myanna Charles reported that of the 16,000-plus vaccinations administered, 3,500 received their second shot. She said with only 3,500 fully vaccinated out of a population of 112,000 this is not sufficient coverage. Grenada has received 53,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to date.
She said the vaccine can reduce transmission up to 68% and significantly protects a person from severe illness and hospitalisation. Moreover, when asked about achieving herd immunity, she said 70 to 80% of the population would have to be vaccinated.
The 2011 National Population and Housing Census Report set the total population at 106,669. Among the “most dominant in terms of size in the population” were people between 20 to 24 years at 9,914, followed by 15 to 19 years at 9,891 and 25 to 29 years at 9,418.
The Central Statistics Office, in its 2019 Annual Population Estimates, which are based on recorded Births and Deaths, shows the population increased to 112,579, with the 30 to 34 age group accounting for 9,905, followed by 25 to 29 years at 9,814 and 20 to 24 years at 9,467. People 60 years and over totalled 18,148, accounting for 16% of the population.
Minister of Health and Social Security Hon Nicholas Steele announced at the end of the briefing that the recommendation by the Chief Medical Officer and the COVID-19 Advisory Committee for a travel ban on persons with a 14-day travel history from India or Brazil was approved by Cabinet and goes into immediate effect. Persons with a desire to come to Grenada from those countries, will have to spend some time in a third party state prior to coming here.
Meanwhile, people interested in getting their COVID-19 vaccine are reminded that the programme continues at the Kirani James Athletics Stadium, via gate B (main entrance opposite the temporary vendors’ vegetable market). The administration of the COVID-19 Vaccine takes place between 9:00 a.m. and to 2:00 pm.
To ensure the process runs smoothly, interested persons are encouraged to present a valid company photo ID or an official ID inclusive of NIS card, driver’s license or passport.
Persons can also contact their district health centers and medical stations to schedule an appointment for the administration of their COVID-19 vaccine.