Vaccines do not prevent people from contracting COVID-19 but they can significantly reduce the likelihood of serious illness or death.
This was the unrelenting message from the Director of Isolation Facilities Dr Corey Forde who is worried that many are being lulled into a false sense of security about the danger posed by the deadly virus.
“I almost feel as though we have not seen what has happened in the rest of the world and almost to the point where I think Barbados has been a victim of its own success,” Dr Forde told journalists at the Harrison Point Isolation Facility on Wednesday.
“People have not seen the sort of challenges that India has seen for example, people have not seen the challenges that the US has had in terms of deaths and overcrowding of their healthcare system. People have not seen that and I think that is part of the problem and that is due to the efforts of the Health EOC [Emergency Operations Centre], the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is ultimately responsible for this through the Chairman of the Board.
“People have not seen people lining up at hospitals trying to get oxygen and exchanging oxygen between each other. Why? Because we are prepared,” he contended.
While welcoming the Government-sanctioned period of dialogue regarding mandatory vaccinations, the infection control specialist is worried that many are still misinformed about the potential benefits of taking the jab.
“Vaccines do not stop people from getting any infection, whether measles, mumps or rubella and people say ‘well why take a vaccine if it doesn’t stop you from getting an infection?’ It stops you from manifesting the disease,” Forde declared.
“So the bad consequences, the ventilators, the shortness of breath, the problems with the lungs, the problems with the kidneys or the bad rash, for example – it prevents that particular aspect from happening. Do you know why? Because when you see that virus or bacteria again, your body has seen something like that and so it does not respond aggressively and if you go back to the beginning of this pandemic, that is why people were scared; that is why across the globe people were dying dramatically even in the absence of the vaccine. That is because our bodies had never seen a Coronavirus of this nature.
“Vaccines seem to be a huge issue and I think part of it, to be frank and you always hear me say this… is due to a lack of us giving the appropriate communication or education and… if I am frank and honest as I am, that’s one thing that we can do better and must do better,” he added.
The Director of Isolation Facilities reiterated that while vaccinated people are still being diagnosed with COVID-19, the vast majority of them have been able to stay clear of the Intensive Care Unit, ventilators and assisted oxygen.
Dr Forde explained that while robust discussion is necessary on the all-important topic, discourse ought not to bring chaos to the country as the country remains at a “critical” stage.
“Put aside that and understand that we are at a critical stage in the country in terms of a healthcare system and if we don’t get it right and people don’t follow protocols, we will be back in a hole just as in March and people have to understand that. I am passionate about that because I see it happening and if we don’t think about what we are doing and we just get comfortable, we will fall back into trouble,” Dr Forde warned.
“We need not drop the ball. I think I have seen over the last few weeks that there have been lots of drops of balls across the country and I want to encourage all Barbadians to continue observing all of the protocols. There is no doubt whatsoever that people are fatigued.
“They are tired of hearing about COVID, they are tired of hearing about sick people, they are tired, but we down here cannot be tired. We must continue to function during this process and each and every one of us who sits at this table has an important role to play, and we recognize that we have a bunch of young people who have stood forward to help this country in the time of need,” he concluded.