Strain spreading in 75 countries the most contagious to date
Health official urges Bahamas to continue with plans to vaccinate against coronavirus
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Urging residents to remain cautious and get vaccinated, Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes said there is a high chance the Delta strain of the coronavirus could impact The Bahamas.
“What does this mean for us here in The Bahamas with travel [is] certainly we have to be concerned that variant could be introduced and that means we have to continue with our plans to increase vaccination coverage and we also have to follow the public health recommendations,” Forbes said in an interview with Eyewitness News.
“It’s already in 75 countries.
“The Delta variant is concerning… It’s in the United States; it’s in the United Kingdom and it is concerning.
“We know COVID and these COVID variants can spread by travel. As you correctly said, it is more infectious. It’s more contagious. As a matter of fact, the Delta variant is the most contagious variant so far.
“It is 60 percent more infectious and people who have COVID with the Delta variant are 85 percent more likely to be hospitalized for COVID.”
There are concerns the Delta variant could become the dominant strain across the globe.
It has spread rapidly in the United States and accounts for 10 percent of its cases.
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this week the risk to the US is the virus could “spike a new epidemic heading into the fall”.
The Bahamas has continued to welcome visitors, with its long-standing key markets including the US and Europe.
Testing regimes remain intact for unvaccinated individuals in the country, but for those who have been vaccinated and passed the two-week inoculation timeframe, RT-PCR testing is no longer required — a potential opening for carriers of the virus.
Forbes noted that international travel remains a source of spread of COVID-19.
However, she said the good news is the existing vaccines protect against the strain.
“They do offer some protection against the Delta variant,” Forbes said.
“And so, overall, the AstraZeneca vaccine is 60 percent effective to protect against the Delta variant and it’s also more effective to prevent hospitalizations from the Delta variant, after getting one dose of the vaccine. That will block off against hospitalizations by the Delta variant by 71 percent and after two doses, it blocks it by about 92 percent.”
Research shows vaccinations can help to decrease hospitalizations amid the pandemic.
There have been growing concerns about the number of hospitalizations, which can place strain on the healthcare system
The Bahamas is awaiting analysis of samples sent abroad to determine which variants exist in country.
Asked about the likelihood of the Delta virus arriving on The Bahamas’ shores, Forbes said: “It is highly probable because it is spread by globalization and travel and it has already been identified in the US and UK.
“If this variant continues to be spreading and if it is a widely circulating strain in the US, it greatly increases the risk that it will be introduced by travel.”
As of Friday, more than 68,000 people have been vaccinated.
When contacted last night, National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee Co-Chair Ed Fields said vaccinations have picked up in recent weeks, and uptake of the second dose has been steady.
Other jurisdictions saw vaccine recipients skip their second dose — some eight percent, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vaccination remains open to anyone above the age of 18.