NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said yesterday the government ought to be cautious with its proposed vaccination day, indicating that proper forward-planning and enforcement will be necessary to avoid vaccination events such as parties becoming environments for COVID-19 to spread.
“Even though the experts perhaps may continue to resound that the chances are very low of something happening — and we accept that the chances may be low — the fact that if a chance is still there, it still means you have to pay attention and practice certain measures to mitigate anything that could happen related to that,” she told Eyewitness News.
Pinder acknowledged there is COVID-19 fatigue among Bahamians, and said while there is a desire for greater human interaction, vaccinated individuals lowering their guard could have a negative impact.
She continued: “I think we still have to [be] very cautious with these types of events because certainly the potential is there for that to negatively impact us.”
The prime minister announced a “vaccination day” earlier this month.
During the wrap-up to the 2021/2022 budget debate on Monday, he indicated that vaccinated individuals will be able to “party on” at restaurants and bars, though the onus of ensuring only vaccinated individuals attend will be on hosts and establishments.
To this, Pinder said: “I hope the government has thought about the measures that they will put in place because when we make these decisions, I think one of the things that we oftentimes see in-country is that we don’t put the measures in place ahead of making these decisions.”
More contagious variants of COVID-19 — such as the Delta strain, which is spreading throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and over 70 other countries — present a danger to The Bahamas, health officials have acknowledged.
While vaccination substantially lowers the chance of contracting the virus and becoming severely ill, it is still possible to contract and pass on COVID-19 when fully vaccinated.
Pinder said it is for that reason that the government should also review its travel policy that now allows travelers upon becoming fully vaccinated and passing the two-week inoculation period to enter The Bahamas without a negative RT-PCR test.
“I think it is very important for us to review that policy,” she said.
“There first reason would be just because of the high transmissibility of that particular variant.
“The second reason is we have pretty much reopened the country. I would have seen pictures recently at the airport and at hotels, and besides the fact that there are concerns with social distancing in the first instance, if we don’t have testing in play — and perhaps [if] persons are tested at the hotel, I think it would be interesting to see how many of those persons are actually testing positive there.”
Pinder said while she fully appreciates the need for employment and accepts it is a difficult balance between health and the economy, “we have to be careful because certainly once we have it (Delta) in [country] and we are still moving around every day, and we don’t have the measures in place to identify these cases, we’re not doing proper surveillance and those type of things — anything could happen”.
More than 79,000 people have been vaccinated.
While it is unclear how many of that figure previously contracted or has since contracted COVID-19, another 12,000-plus people who have been infected with the virus could have immunity as a result of developing antibodies.