St Lucia not keeping pace with vaccines rollout and the science

Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, Moses Jn Baptiste and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Sharon Belmar-George

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The ministry of health, wellness and elderly affairs, press release November 24, noted that Saint Lucia is underachieving in its vaccine rollout and the science relative to ‘COVID-19 vaccine to be used in persons younger than 12.’

On the latter, the ministry of health stated: “Saint Lucia continues to rely on the recommendations of the World Health Organization for guidance on vaccines and vaccination. To date, WHO/PAHO does not recommend any COVID-19 vaccine to be used in persons younger than 12.”

Consider Toronto a major tourism market for Saint Lucia:

  • On May 5, 2021, Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
  • On November 19, 2021, Health Canada authorized the use of Pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization  (NACI) recommends a complete series (two doses) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for the 5 to 11 age group.
  • Starting November 23 at 8 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children 5-11 years oldare available to be booked on the Provincial system.”

In the US, another major tourism market for Saint Lucia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: “Most children and all teens can get COVID-19 vaccines. […] Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a critical tool to best protect everyone from COVID-19 and COVID-19 related complications. Children and teens who are fully vaccinated can safely resume many activities that they did prior to the pandemic.”

Related: St Lucia’s low vaccination rate concerns IMF and PAHO, says health minister

On vaccine rollout, the ministry of health advised: “Saint Lucia is nine months into the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. As of Monday, November 22, 2021, a total of 53, 818 doses of vaccines have been administered. This is inclusive of both first and second doses. Out of that 45, 521 persons have been vaccinated with the complete regimen, accounting for 25.1 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

“To ensure equitable global vaccine rollout, the World Health Organisation (WHO) target for COVID-19 vaccine coverage is 40 percent by December 2021, and 70 percent by June 2022. Whilst some countries have achieved the 40 percent target, others, like Saint Lucia, are still behind.”

“… We hear of approval in some countries for children 5 to 11 years; and as such, there has been many inquiries regarding the introduction of Pfizer to this age group. Saint Lucia continues to rely on the recommendations of the World Health Organization for guidance on vaccines and vaccination. To date, WHO/PAHO does not recommend any COVID-19 vaccine to be used in persons younger than 12.”

However, the ministry of health noted that: “ The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer was approved by the United States FDA for pediatric populations (children aged 5-11) on October 29, 2021, and then recommended by the CDC. Various countries in the Caribbean region are considering vaccinating children younger than 12 with the Pfizer vaccine. Whilst the national regulatory agency of each country has the authority to issue this approval; it is important to note that the pediatric Pfizer vaccine has a different formulation and dosage than the Pfizer vaccine authorized for adults.”

“The vaccine authorized for use in children aged 5-11 includes the same mRNA and lipids, but different inactive ingredients compared to the vaccine that is used in individuals aged 12 or older. The pediatric and adult preparation also differs in dosage, and reconstitution. Additionally, children can not receive a fractionated dose of the adult Pfizer vaccine in place of a pediatric dose.” the ministry of health explanation continued. “In order to launch vaccination for this age group, Saint Lucia must receive the pediatric vaccine doses. In light of this, Saint Lucia awaits the approval from the World Health Organization before introducing to this target group. In the interim, the ministry of health, wellness and elderly affairs has begun the necessary arrangements to access and procure the Pediatric Pfizer vaccine.”

The ministry report on November 22, also stated that: “From July 25, 2021, to present we note 7,380 cases at an average of 62 cases per day. In the management of the fourth wave, we have also carried out over 35,000 tests; 50 percent of the diagnosed cases are in the age group 25-49 years and 57 percent of the cases are female. At present we have 140 active cases in country. The majority of the cases are from the Castries, Gros-Islet, Vieux-Fort and Babonneau districts.

“At present, 17 COVID-19 patients are admitted to the respiratory hospital, 1 in critical condition and 6 are severely ill. The daily infection rate for the past week was 5 per 100,000 per day which is a 36 percent decrease from the previous week. We note that the present rate of transmission is 0.85. During that period we noted 182 COVID-19 deaths out of a total of 272 COVID-19 deaths, with a case fatality rate of 2.5 percent. Males account for 53 percent of the deaths.

Related: St Lucia gears up amid COVID-19 worries and festive season

Ahead of the festive season the ministry advised: “We need to prevent further spikes before and during the festive season. We continue to ask the public to cooperate with us and exhibit responsible behavior to ensure our recorded COVID-19 numbers remain low,” and “While the booster is recommended for the high-risk population, other individuals can come forward for the booster dose. To date (November 24) 1,309 Booster doses have been administered.”


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