GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) – The last scheduled shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived in the Cayman Islands Wednesday aboard the British Airways flight, ending the country’s free supply from the UK.
The country has enough vaccines to inoculate over 45,000 adults (16+) but the shipment was cut after concerns that uptake here has begun to slow, even though the shots were offered to everyone who is resident and over the age of 16. The vaccines have variable shelf lives of between one and three months, so those who have not yet had their first shot are being urged to get it as soon as possible.
After early success with the national vaccine programme, Governor Martyn Roper said he was concerned that vaccine uptake was now slowing and so the final delivery of shots had been reduced. Currently, 31,302 people or 48 percent of the estimated population of 65,000 have received at least one dose and 34 percent have completed the two-dose course.
“As the vaccine has a limited shelf life, we asked the UK to send a significantly reduced amount of a further 11,700 doses in the last scheduled delivery that arrived today from the UK,” he said. “Before the arrival of today’s supplies, we already had enough vaccine on Island for 80 percent of our adult population, approximately 40,000. But as vaccine supply is still challenging, and many countries are desperately seeking supplies, it would be wrong to risk wasting vaccine supply. If uptake increases we can request a further delivery from the UK.”
Roper said that the balance of risk remains heavily weighted in favour of the vaccine, which millions of people have taken safely with little or no side effects.
“No-one wants to get COVID,” he said. “In the UK, even young people who have had it mildly are at risk of long COVID, suffering symptoms lasting months. New research published today suggests that getting COVID is associated with a greater risk of depression, dementia, psychosis and stroke. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and especially our more vulnerable elderly population. We can only safely reopen our borders once the vast majority of the adult population is vaccinated and protected from the worst effects of this terrible virus.”
The Public Health Department said that due to the progress of the programme, it will no longer be using the Owen Roberts International Airport as a vaccination centre from the end of April. The requirements have also changed and people attending for vaccination do not need to provide identification regarding their residency rights, though photo ID will still be required.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr John Lee said that getting the vaccine will encourage safe travel and easier movement of people, as he thanked those who have helped with the programme so far. “We have been assisted tirelessly by the staff of the Health Services Authority and their Public Health team who have come out as stars in the management of the threat from COVID-19,” he said, thanking them and Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) for allowing them to use the space for the programme
Meanwhile, one more traveller tested positive for the coronavirus in Wednesday’s report and there are now 24 active cases among those in isolation and quarantine of COVID-19, but just two of those individuals are suffering symptoms of the virus.
The latest schedule of operations at the airport will be published by the Health Services Authority imminently and will include extended hours to further facilitate access to vaccinations. It will be available on the HSA website.