PAHO: Population becoming “more relaxed” as vaccination increases, some infected not testing

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As The Bahamas continued to experience quadruple the recommend coronavirus case positivity rate, the Pan American Health Organization said the rate of case positives can be attributed in part to the population becoming “more relaxed” as vaccinations increase and individuals do not present for testing after being exposed.

PAHO commended the vaccine rollout in The Bahamas, but said it is important for residents to continue to utilize public health and social measures, including testing as cases and deaths remain high in the region.

COVID deaths in The Bahamas stand at 586.

While The Bahamas case positivity rate stood at 13 percent on Wednesday, nearly three times the recommend rate, the figure has fluctuated to as high as 30 percent in recent days.

When asked for PAHO’s assessment and recommendations, PAHO’s Incident Manager for COVID-19 Dr Sylvain Aldighieri said it could be that more people contracting the virus are not presenting for testing; and as vaccinations increase more of the population become relaxed and are “less likely to present for testing when they have been exposed”.

“Even though the vaccine rollout is going well people should continue to use the public health and social measures that we know work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including all its variants,” Aldighieri said.

The government continues to encourage vaccination uptake.

As of the weekend, 104,380 people had been fully vaccinated — more than 30 percent of the eligible population.

Vaccines are available for anyone aged 12 and over.

As it relates to vaccine supply in The Bahamas, PAHO Assistant Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said PAHO continues to make every effort to increase access to vaccines of all its member states.

“In the case of The Bahamas, we are working an expedited process with COVAX, so The Bahamas will receive another 57,300 doses in the first week of November,” he said.

“Second, we are working with the US government is CARTHA to expedite the donation of four million doses that the US government is donating to the Caribbean countries and The Bahamas will receive vaccines also through this initiative.

“We are also offering to all the countries in the region to complement their vaccines through the direct purchasing process using PAHO’s Revolving Fund.”

PAHO has three agreements with three EAU producers via WHO offering vaccines to be delivered in the last quarter of this year.

“It is crucial that every country in our region needs to have more access,” he noted.

The latest samples sequenced in Panama and Brazil showed delta and the alpha variants were the predominant variants in The Bahamas.

The Ministry of Health reported yesterday that four women died from the coronavirus between September 22 and October 3.

The women, ages 42, 61, 67 and 88, were all from Grand Bahama and died. One death was previous under investigation.

According to the ministry, another three deaths were being investigated.

Meanwhile, another 60 coronavirus cases were confirmed on Wednesday.

Of the new infections, 48 were recorded on New Providence, six on Eleuthera, three on Grand Bahama, and one each on Exuma, Andros and Mayaguana.

Region

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said over the last month, COVID infections have declined throughout the region, but cases and deaths still remain high.

But she said national data “doesn’t tell us the whole story”, and governments throughout the region need to keep a close eye on local trends as infections dynamics vary widely.

“Across the Caribbean infections are going down overall, although Cuba and Bermuda continue to report high rates of new infections, and Barbados saw infections increase by nearly 75 percent over the last week.”

Approximately 37 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated.

Seven countries have vaccinated 70 percent of the populations, the same number has yet to reach 20 percent, including Jamaica and Haiti — The Bahamas’ neighbors to the south.

PAHO said it is seeking to close this gap, including increasing vaccine production in the region.