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‘Take the jab but take better care of yourself, too

by Marlon Madden
4 min read

People with weakened immune systems who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can still catch it and even die, emergency physician Dr Brian Charles said Friday as he urged Barbadians to work on improving their overall health even while shielding from the virus by taking the jabs.

Individuals with a suppressed immune system and underlying health conditions such as non-communicable diseases are still at risk of becoming critically ill if they catch COVID-19, he said but added it was better to take the vaccine since it lowered the chance of this happening.

He made the comments as he sought to dispel fallacies about the coronavirus vaccines at a Barbados Yacht Club talk on COVID-19; Facts, Fiction and Fallacies..

Pointing out that vaccines have always been said to prevent serious illness and prevent death, Dr Charles made clear that the vaccines were not intended to prevent the infection as some people believed.

He said: “People are saying why take the vaccine if I can still get infected and I can still spread it to other people. The answer is simple, if you take the vaccine, one, you have a shorter time for infection. Secondly, your transmissibility, which means the likelihood of you spreading the virus to someone else is less.

“The amount of time you are transmissible is less and in fact, just to let you know if you are vaccinated you are transmissible from about day 2 to day 5. If you are not vaccinated you are transmissible from day two to up to day eight. If your immune system is not heightened you can actually be transmissible from up to day 11 to day 14, which is why we use the science for people who are in isolation to remain in isolation for 10 days and if your immune system is not in a good shape you are to be isolated for 14 days.

“The other thing about the vaccine is that persons who are vaccinated can still die because the vaccine does not remove the co-morbidities that make the virus so dangerous. So this is another point I don’t think has been emphasised enough because when we have published that we have a vaccinated person who has died, automatically the response is that ‘but the vaccine not working. If they die why should I get vaccinated?’ it is because you still have the vulnerabilities, the co-morbidities. Those have not been removed by vaccination.”

The emergency care specialist who is associated with the national home isolation programme stressed that he is not a virologist or immunologist, but said he sees the complications infected people are experiencing.

“It concerns me greatly and because of that I have taken a special interest in doing research and feeling out what we can do about COVID,” he said.

He said it was important that people take responsibility for their health, adding that to effectively manage the pandemic will require more than just vaccination.

Managing the virus, he said, called for people to practice a healthy lifestyle by “eating properly”, exercising, avoiding stress and getting enough rest.

He said it also required following the protocols of good hygiene, physical distancing and the correct wearing of masks.

“The last method, which is a pharmacological method and which is what we will speak about today is a vaccine,” he said.

He stressed that the “vaccine technology is not new”,
adding that vaccines have been around for a long time and “helped medical fraternity get rid of very many dangerous diseases”.

Acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic was still very new, having been around for only about two years, he said officials were still learning about it and therefore information regarding the virus would continue to be updated or changed.

“I have no doubt that what I am telling you today in six months may also change,” Dr Charles said. “It is not that I don’t know what I am talking about. At this present time, this is the science and this is what we know about the disease, about the vaccines and how to prevent it,” he said, pointing out that one of the most recent updates was the need for booster shots.

“It is my feeling that if the virus dies out, if there are no further variants, that we probably have two more years of this. The issue is that the more persons we have that are not vaccinated is the more likely [it is] that the variants will come about in persons who are infected and hence something else will come up.

“So we don’t know if we are going to need more boosters, it is likely, and we really don’t know what this disease is going to bring for us in the future, but we are hoping that it won’t be very much longer with this.”

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