Over the last few months, our COVID-19 cases have increased at an alarming rate. In July, we were still well below the 10,000-mark in terms of overall positive tests and had recorded very few deaths. Fast forward to the present day, and we are nearing 20,000 positive tests and recording about four deaths per day. What is also alarming is that some of the deaths are occurring at the schools being used as secondary isolation centres for “less severe” cases, even though the more intensive care facility is at Harrison Point.
These figures have naturally evoked fear in many Barbadians and the overall message we are getting from health authorities is “get vaccinated”. But owing to some of the information on social media platforms, originating here in Barbados and elsewhere in the world, many are still skeptical.
Most times COVID-19 deaths are announced, we are told that “the patients had pre-existing conditions and were unvaccinated.” So, would these deaths have been prevented if the patients were indeed vaccinated?
Earlier this year, President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners Dr. Lynda Williams stated: “The COVID-19 vaccine is a disease-mitigating vaccine, such as the regular flu shot which you may take one year but then take it the following year as a new strain may develop. The COVID vaccine does not prevent you from actually contracting COVID-19, but it guards against your having to be put on a ventilator or losing your life if you come down with it. Therefore, I would advise you to continue to maintain the safety protocols once you get the vaccine.”
The authorities have said they wanted a specific percentage of the population vaccinated by the middle of this month, but in dealing with people’s health, should we not see it as more than just a “numbers game”, even if those numbers might mean we can get back to a relative sense of normalcy in our economic activities?
Now we are almost two years into this pandemic, it may be time for us to do a deeper dive into these statistics. In the early days, the dashboard highlighted the number of people who had recovered from the virus. That information has been missing of late. Should we focus on just the new cases being added to the mix rather than the cumulative figure? And, ideally, we should analyze where all these new cases are coming from and take whatever measures are necessary to mitigate the situation.
We currently have four different vaccines locally and, indeed, some Barbadians have expressed doubts about some of the brands. Here is Dr. Williams’ take on that: “The World Health Organization has reporting standards for all of its member countries, and in science, we do not make judgments based on one isolated incident but based on the repetition of events in an observable way. For example, if people take a particular drug or vaccine and complain that their toes are hurting, scientists will observe what is happening, look at all possible causes, and after observing the trends they can whittle their findings down to the most probable cause and work from there.”
How many of the “new” patients are vaccinated, either fully or partially? Have any of them tested positive for COVID-19 before? What is the recovery rate of the vaccinated vis-à-vis the unvaccinated? What is the ratio of unvaccinated patients who are asymptomatic to vaccinated asymptomatic patients? In case we want to go further, has any one vaccine proven more effective than another?
If such figures are brought to the table and the numbers are encouraging, it may inspire those who have been “sitting on the fence” all this time to give the vaccines a try.
Apart from reiterating the protocols, ensuring they are maintained seriously, and, yes, reminding people to get vaccinated, we have to remind Barbadians that this virus is not completely unstoppable and we can overcome it. From the beginning, statistics showed that the number of recoveries is considerably higher than the number of overall deaths. The website www.worldometers.info showed that as of November 11, the global number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic was 250,935,756, with 5,069,245 deaths and 227,174,048 recoveries.
We also need to hear more survivors’ stories, not merely in the current format, encouraging people to get vaccinated – because long before the vaccinations were available, people were contracting COVID-19 and recovering – but how did they do it? That may be the message we need to reassure Barbadians that all is not lost.
This article appears in the November 12 edition of COVID Dispatch. Read the full publication here.