NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler suggested yesterday that not enough is known about the COVID-19 vaccine to adopt policies in The Bahamas that would allow residents to go maskless after being full vaccinated.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear face masks or physically distance in any setting, “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance”.
Wearing a facial mask remains a requirement in The Bahamas even for fully vaccinated individuals.
Asked whether The Bahamas can afford to adopt the CDC’s latest policy, Pinder-Butler said: “I honestly would be cautious with that because even though there are certain studies that they did that showed that the potential transmission rate is low, I still don’t feel we know enough about vaccines, and persons can still get COVID. They can still pass it on to others. You don’t know how severe it will be if you get it. So, I wouldn’t support it at this particular point.”
She added: “I just think it’s too soon for us to reach that point.”
The CDC has also advised that “fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter”.
“When you don’t know enough about something, I think a good practice is always to be cautious,” Pinder-Butler told Eyewitness News.
“But that’s just me. Everyone might not have that view.
“Some people feel like ‘okay, if nothing has happened to me so far, then I can take the chance’.
“But I would say, if you don’t know enough, you wait to see what happens before you make drastic decisions, especially when these are things that can cost someone’s life.
“…Right now, all I am hearing is ‘we are reopening, we’re reopening and once you’re vaccinated you don’t have to do a test.’”
Pinder-Butler also said the number of vaccinated individuals had not reached a sufficient number to support the CDC’s recommendation being applied in The Bahamas.
More than 36,000 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca have been administered in The Bahamas.
Another 33,600 doses arrived in-country this week as The Bahamas continues to administer first and second doses, though the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee has noted that demand for the vaccine has flattened of late.
The committee hopes to continue its education campaign on the vaccine in an effort to spur its uptake.
Pinder-Butler said she has observed patrons attempting to enter certain restaurants on New Providence, including at Arawak Cay, not wearing facial masks and being upset when turned away.
“That’s what’s happening and I don’t think that’s going to stop anytime soon,” she said.
She continued: “We have so many loopholes and I think that’s a part of the challenge as well.
“We have so many deficits with this system because the surveillance isn’t what it needs to be in terms of capacity, so we can’t properly keep up with real-time tracking of things, which it is so dangerous if something happens — how quickly it could just turn into a serious, serious nightmare.
“We don’t have enough people to police [such a policy].”
Pinder-Butler indicated that the CDC’s policy could lead to scores of unvaccinated individuals and those carrying the virus going massless, risking further community spread.
“And even if we had enough police, we have been seeing so many inconsistencies with the policing,” she said.
“I see sometimes where they do police, and I have seen sometimes where they do shut down, like a service or something like that.
“But you see sometimes where they don’t shut down. It’s not consistent.”
The Bahamas remains in its third wave of the virus.
As of yesterday, total cases stood at 11,024. An additional 58 cases were recorded on Wednesday — 54 on New Providence, one on Grand Bahama and one on Eleuthera.
Another 58 cases remain hospitalized.
So who is the scientist here?
She doesn’t “FEEL,” professional Bahamians favorite word!
CDC reports are on facts and data;
not on feelings.
I am a retired healtcare worker and I totally agree with the doctor. Sometimes I wonder about CDC. We have not yet vaccinated a third of our population . What of the figure we are aiming at to reach at least herd immunity? Questions right now are too numerous. Bahamas please wear your masks, social distance and wash hands. This is one time we will be doing the right thing.