Government has been urged to establish a vigorous surveillance programme for the more infectious COVID-19 strains, even as the coury pursues an aggressive COVID-19 vaccination programme.
As at last Sunday evening, Government reported that some 15 837 people had been vaccinated with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, gifted by the Government of India. Of those taking the jab, 8 856 were females, and 6 981 males choose to be protected through the vaccine.
Dr Lynda Williams, president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), told COVID Weekly in a recent interview that the COVID-19 virus was mutating into more highly infectious, dangerous strains, and this was a cause for concern.
The British variant has already been identified in Barbados.
“COVID is mutating, and its mutation is not a one-year cycle like influenza. It is mutating under various ecological pressures in certain parts of the world, in different ways. As a result, we have to put surveillance systems in place for the variants because right now we know that we have the original Wuhan strain, and we know that we have the UK variant on the island.”
The family doctor and epidemiologist cautioned: “We don’t know much about any of the others. There are the Brazilian and the California variants; there is the South African and there is the Nigerian variant. What does this mean? Right now, we know that the [Oxford AstraZeneca] vaccine covers the UK variant very well and the original SARS COV 2.
But if we don’t keep an eye out for others that the vaccine does not cover so well, even though we may have reduced transmission in the country, we could still find that with international travel, we may introduce a variant that is not covered by the vaccine.”
The BAMP president further noted that an aggressive campaign to convince more Barbadians to take the vaccine, should be pursued because a high uptake was key to returning the country to some level of normalcy.
“The more people receiving the vaccine, the less transmission of the original strain and the UK variant, we will have in our society, and that will translate to fewer people getting really sick,” she noted.
Williams advised that even with an increasing number of Barbadians being vaccinated, it was still necessary that everyone continued to apply the COVID-19 protocols of masking, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. (IMC1)
This article appears in the February 22 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.