by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The vaccination rate in St. Kitts and Nevis will determine the rate at which COVID-19 related restrictions will be lifted; that has been the messaging from various government and medical officials.
The vaccination rate determines all, from including more of St. Kitts in the travel approved bubble for cruise passengers to reducing the quarantine time from 24-hours to no quarantine at all.
According to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Hazel Laws, the Federation has passed the benchmark the World Health Organisation put in place for all countries to aim for, 40 per cent.
“When you look at our vaccination rate, 51.3 per cent of the total population is already fully vaccinated. St Kitts and Nevis is the first in this subregion to have passed WHO’s benchmark. So WHO says look all territories should aim to cover at least 40 per cent of your population with COVID-19 vaccines. So we were the first in this subregion to pass this benchmark,”
Dr. Laws explained that even though we have passed this benchmark set by the WHO, we should not be complacent, specifically concerning those who remain unvaccinated.
“When you look at the data in terms of the cases, if you are unvaccinated in the Federation, your risk of picking up COVID is increased. If you are unvaccinated and you are 60 years and over with comorbidities, your risk of picking up COVID is high, your risk of getting severe COVID, being admitted and even dying is increased, and so this is just a word out there to the other 28 per cent who have not come on board… we want you to empower yourselves with the information and come on board.”
While officials continue to push for more people to get vaccinated, others ask questions about alternatives to the vaccine.
One such alternative raised was molnupiravir, the COVID-19 antiviral pill developed by U.S. drugmaker Merck.
How does the pill work?
Like the vaccine, it targets the virus in the body and disrupts its ability to multiply and spread through the body.
But based on the regimen, it may not be a cheap alternative.
“This medication, molnupiravir, is given four tablets twice a day for five days, so it’s a five-day course, and when I looked at the literature, I saw a quote of approximately US$700 for the five-day course. So now that’s the initial cost, but I’m sure once it’s approved, let’s be hopeful that the cost will be much more affordable,” said Dr Laws.
On Wednesday, Merck announced that it had signed a licensing agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to allow more companies to manufacture generic versions of its experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment.
According to Reuters, Merck said the royalty-free license would apply to 105 low- and middle-income countries. It allows manufacturers selected by MPP to make generic versions of molnupiravir; the antiviral pill Merck has developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering emergency use authorisation of the medicine, which was shown in a clinical trial to halve the risk of severe disease and death when given early for COVID-19.
For those apprehensive, what is the likelihood of accepting 40 pills in a five-day course even if it were affordable?