by Eulana Weekes
St.Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Dr Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph N France General Hospital says the path to ‘herd immunity’ is not the preferred end goal in the fight against COVID-19.
“There are some who are still saying that they will get protection through “herd immunity” so that they themselves do not have to get vaccinated. CDC officials stated for the first time that they no longer consider ‘herd immunity’ a goal for COVID-19. This means that the health agency no longer believes that the disease will functionally disappear in the face of high vaccination rates. This was no surprise to us,” said Wilkinson during the February 2 COVID press briefing hosted by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).
Wilkinson continued to urge vaccination as the best defence against the spread of the virus
“We have said here before that there will be no “herd immunity day”. There is no magic percentage vaccination coverage we reach and drop our guard and switch everything back to normal. Everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.”
He said, if you are responsible for an elderly person or a child between the ages of 12 to 17, people need to make that decision to get them vaccinated, and adults 18 and over, should make the right decision to get vaccinated for their own personal protection.
The doctor also addressed the matter of vaccine hesitancy, the spreading of misinformation and the possible outcome for those who continue to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If you continue to listen to those who tell you to put yourself on the waiting list for a better vaccine, you are putting yourself on the list with those who may die if they get infected. We are yet to take care of someone who is severely ill or died from COVID who is fully vaccinated and boosted. Irresponsible people are still spreading misinformation and promoting vaccine hesitancy which is costing people their lives.
How many more must die before we begin to take this virus seriously?” Wilkinson questioned.
Almost 87 percent of adults in St. Kitts and nearly 70 percent of adults in Nevis have protection from at least one vaccine shot, Wilkinson called on the 13.2 percent of adults in St. Kitts and the 30 percent of adults in Nevis who have no protection through vaccination to go out and get vaccinated.
Wilkinson suggested that there is an “ 86.8 percent chance that the adult in the room who is telling you not to get vaccinated is already personally protected through vaccination and is misleading you.”
While vaccines have been effective in preventing severe illness, Dr Wilkinson said they don’t fully stop transmission, especially against the highly transmissible Omicron variant. He said, that fact, coupled with the still high number of people who are choosing not to get vaccinated, means that it’s very unlikely that vaccines will stop the spread of COVID-19 in the way that they have with measles and other viral illnesses that were halted by high vaccination coverage, leading to herd immunity protection.
“The idea of having unvaccinated persons protected by the herd in this pandemic is therefore slowly disappearing, as the scientific evidence has unfolded the stark reality that, if vaccinated, though protected from severe disease, hospitalisation and death, you may still transmit the virus.”
Dr Wilkinson said, each person more so now, needs to make that personal decision to protect themselves and stop this infection from becoming a personal death sentence.