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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Belize's COVID-19 Vaccine Rate Doubles

Updated: Dec 5, 2021


When I would get frustrated at accomplishing a task, my mother would say to me in Belizean Kriol, “When yuh nuh have Mami, use Daddy.”

In other words, there is a way. Just sometimes, we have to resort to getting things done differently than what we’re used to doing.

Surviving the COVID-19 pandemic is the task. Wearing masks properly over the nose, washing hands and keeping distance will help prevent the spread of the virus. Getting fully vaccinated is the fourth part of the effort. They are all something different.

The vaccine, generally, protects people from getting seriously ill or dying. Hospitalized and dead COVID-19 patients tend to be unvaccinated. However, the COVID-19 vaccine is not an elixir for life.

Recently, I wrote a piece about an 86-year-old artist, who was fragile after several strokes and, after being vaccinated completely, had contracted and recovered from COVID-19. A reader commented that this case revealed the inefficacy of the vaccine. I would say the opposite: it is amazing that she recovered from the infection.

“Overall, COVID-19 will not go away until essentially everyone is immune, either through vaccination or post-infection,” said respected Michigan immunologist, Dr. James R. Baker, Jr., a former college colleague, who writes a blog, Pandemic Pondering.

“I believe that will happen over the next six months, but I also know that it would be a much easier road for everyone if people were vaccinated rather than trying to gain immunity through infection. I think almost everyone involved in health care, who has observed the damage that this infection causes, would agree.”

In only two months, Belize has more than doubled the percentage of those vaccinated against COVID-19.

Our World in Data reported 47.2 percent, or 188,000, had been vaccinated completely as of November 15.

Well done, Belize. However, the momentum must go on to help keep Belizeans safe: get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash hands and keep a distance.

On September 16, only 19 percent of the population had been vaccinated fully, according to the Belize Ministry of Health and Wellness. As of October 1, the percentage had increased to 31.5, reported the Pan American Health Organization.

Michel Chebat, the Minister of Health and Wellness, announced on November 10 the relaxation of some restrictions in line with the government’s three-month plan drafted in September. Curfews will be pushed back effective November 22. From Sunday through Thursday, the curfew will be 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and on Friday and Saturday, 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

In addition, as of November 22, restaurants will no longer require vaccination cards. However, restaurants still will be restricted to 50 percent capacity indoors and 75 percent outdoors, reported Open Your Eyes (November 11) on Channel 5.

It is not shocking that the 86-year-old artist contracted the virus because the prevalent Delta variant is so contagious.

“Delta is believed to be more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and studies have shown that it may be more likely than the original virus to put infected people in the hospital,” according to Yale Medicine (November 3). “People who are not vaccinated are most at risk, and the highest spread of cases and severe outcomes are happening in places with low vaccination rates.”

On November 10, Belize’s daily COVID-19 report showed 35 hospitalized and 15 in intensive care units. There was a total of 167 confirmed cases. There were 222 recoveries. Sadly, 11 died on that day.

Also, on November 10, 1,703 new tests were administered, 1,525 tests were negative, and 466 tests were under investigation. The positivity rate was 9.87. What is the positivity rate?

Positivity rate is a measure of how much COVID-19 is spreading in a community along with the total number of cases, the number of new cases per day and the number of deaths. The positivity rate gives the percent of COVID-19 tests that come back as positive in that time period.

Belize has an ample supply of vaccines. Minister Chebat also announced that booster shots have been approved for those 18 and older, two months after complete vaccination.

“With more than 300,000 vials of vaccines available, there is enough for both first-time vaccine takers (still around half the population at present over the age of 12), second-shot seekers and, now, booster shots for adults, including those with comorbidities, senior citizens over 60 and health-care workers,” reported Belize Breaking News (November 14).

Yale Medicine reported: “While most Delta infections have been in people who have not had a vaccine, data also has shown the variant to have increased transmissibility, even among some vaccinated people. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), if a vaccinated person is infected with COVID-19 (in what’s called a “breakthrough” case), and they have symptoms, they can transmit the virus to others; the agency is still assessing data on whether fully vaccinated people can spread the virus if they have a breakthrough case but have no symptoms.”

Dr. Inci Yildirim, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist, was not surprised by Delta’s progression:

“All viruses evolve over time and undergo changes as they spread and replicate,” she said in Yale Medicine.

We can stop the spread.

How are other Caribbean nations faring in their vaccination rollouts?

The Cayman Islands has vaccinated completely 83.2%, according to Our World in Data on November 12, as compared with 81.6% on October 1, as reported by the Pan American Health Organization; Bermuda (74%) as compared with 59.8%; San Marteen (59.8%) as compared with 53.6%; Barbados (45.7%) as compared with 36.5%; Trinidad and Tobago (44.8%) as compared with 35.5%; Suriname (35.8%) as compared with 29.1%; Dominica (35.8%) as compared with 29%; the Bahamas (32.6%) as compared with 22.2%; Jamaica (16%) as compared with 8.5%, and Haiti (0.4%) on November 12 as compared with 0.2% on October 1.

"Today, twice as many people in Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 than in August of this year," said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director at the Pan American Health Organization, during the agency's regular media briefing on the pandemic.

Dr. Barbosa said that nearly 44 percent of the region's people have been immunized fully, mainly with doses donated bilaterally or through the COVAX initiative for global vaccine distribution, reported United Nations: UN News (October 27).

Meanwhile, infections and deaths also have reached their lowest levels in more than a year, with 800,000 infections and 18,000 deaths reported over the last week, reported UN News (October 27).

Although there is reason to be optimistic, Dr. Barbosa urged countries to remain vigilant and continue public health measures, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

"While our region has done a great job at accelerating immunization coverage over just a few months, more than half of people in Latin America and the Caribbean remain unprotected," he told journalists.

"In Guatemala, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Haiti, less than 20 percent of people have been vaccinated fully."

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