Statement – Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis – 23 May 2021


Statement – Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis – 23 May 2021



Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis

Special Health Adviser to the Prime Minister, Chair National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee

Live Televised Statement

With the Prime Minister

Sunday 23 May 2021

5PM

Office of the Prime Minister

Prime Minister the Most. Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.

The national COVID-19 picture in The Bahamas has mirrored the global pandemic.

Each phase, beginning the 15th of March 2020, has presented with unique challenges across our archipelago given our many international ports of entry and our tourism-dependent livelihood.

The medical teams and local health structures have responded to the pandemic in a commendable manner.

At this point we have identified new models of care for addressing the pandemic.

We are currently in a third wave of the COVID-19 virus and I am pleased to report that the monitoring system has been strengthened significantly over time, and we now have increased skills, more resources and greater capacity to address the changing presentation of COVID-19 in our islands.

We now have a new opportunity with the COVID-19 vaccine to manage this pandemic.

Ladies and gentlemen:

This dashboard provides an update on the progress of the national COVID-19 vaccine campaign. Starting today, this weekly dashboard will track the total number of first and second doses administered nationally and by island. Other data will be added as needed.

This afternoon I am very pleased to report that as of Friday the 21st of May, a total of 50,242 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Bahamians and residents on New Providence, Grand Bahama and throughout the Family Islands.

The total number of doses include 44,226 first doses and 6,016 second doses.

Four thousand eight-hundred and ninety-three (4,893) second doses have been administered in New Providence, and 1,123 second doses in Grand Bahama.

Following a successful roll out in the Family Islands last month we expect to start administering second doses in the islands during the month of June in accordance with the recommended 8 to 12 week spacing between doses.

As you can see from the dashboard, first doses of the vaccine have been administered on a total of 14 Family Islands and cays.

At this time I wish to acknowledge the major contributions of the Rhode Island National Guard (RING) and the Air Ambulance Services for their support in the Family Island rollout.

I would also like to recognize the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for providing security for the vaccines and staff over the entire vaccination campaign.

            Many islands have not reported cases of COVID-19 for many days.

            We are pleased with the islands whose residents have come out in large numbers to receive the vaccine.

            In particular, the residents of Grand Bahama should be congratulated.

The data show that the vaccine campaign there is working.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Grand Bahama is decreasing.  To date hospitalizations are at a low level and there are no ICU admissions.

The national COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been ongoing for 9 weeks. It began in mid-March with a distribution plan by priority groups.

This included healthcare workers, persons 60 years of age and older and members of the uniformed branches.   

            The uptake among the 60 and above age group was strong.

We see here that at the beginning of the campaign the citizens and residents vaccinated were predominantly over the age of 60, at 52 per cent.

However, in the past week, 76 per cent of those receiving the first dose of the vaccine were between the ages of 18 and 50.

It is noteworthy that the uptake appears to be increasing in the 18-50 age group. This is expected to continue in the coming weeks.

We take note of the data of the uptake among specific professional groups so far.

We wish to encourage all who are eligible to take the vaccine. Protect yourselves. Protect your loved ones and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are making progress but we are still in the pandemic.

As of Saturday the 22nd of May, a total of 11,552 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in The Bahamas.

The pandemic is not over.

Vaccinations continue to play a pivotal role in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Health officials remain concerned about the new variants of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and India.

Studies show that these new variants spread more rapidly and are affecting younger people.

The latest data show that nationally hospitalizations are decreasing, as are ICU admissions.

However, COVID-19 is new in its behavior and has changed its properties over the last 15 months.

This is no longer a virus that only affects older people.

It is now infecting younger persons.

More young people are contracting the virus.

More young people are becoming seriously ill.

More young people are being hospitalized and are dying from the virus.

Sadly, there have been 226 COVID-related deaths.

Ladies and gentlemen:

             Health teams are currently managing outbreaks in the Berry Islands, Cat Island and North and Central Andros through a strategic combination of contact tracing and aggressive vaccination.

On the Berry Islands the index case originated from a church event.

We must contain the spread of this virus on Bullocks Harbour and Great Harbour Cay, where there are 24 active cases of the COVID-19 virus.

On the island of Andros, there were nine new cases reported in a single day.

This is significant.

The health team is conducting contact tracing on the island at this time.

On Cat Island there are 33 active cases of the COVID-19 virus. One hundred and nine residents are in quarantine.

Seven of 13 persons under investigation tested positive today.

The island has a positivity rate of 58 per cent.

Seven persons were airlifted to New Providence for urgent medical care, and six remain hospitalized.

            This slide shows how the virus is affecting the younger population and children under nine years of age.

            We now have access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to help us fight the transmission of this virus and to support the medical care of COVID-19 cases.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are fortunate to have received COVID-19 vaccines when there is a worldwide shortage.

To date, The Bahamas has received 87,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This includes 20,000 doses from the Government of India and 67,200 doses, pre-paid, through the COVAX Facility with the assistance of the Pan-American Health Organization and Inter-American Development Bank.

The Bahamas is also expected to receive an additional 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX Facility by the end of this month.

Ladies and gentlemen:

This week we are offering more than 9,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments. This includes first and second doses.

Online appointments are available this week, from Tuesday thru Friday at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium; Loyola Hall, Gladstone Road; Baha Mar; Church of God of Prophecy, East Street and St. Anselm’s Church Hall on Bernard Road.

Walk-up appointments are also available at the Kendal Isaacs Gym, Baha Mar, Church of God of Prophecy and St. Anselm’s Church Hall. 

While the transfer of data between digital platforms made it difficult for some to make an appointment for the second dose of their vaccine, Help Desks have been set up at each vaccination center to assist those having difficulty making an appointment.

We expect this technical glitch to be completely resolved in the coming days and appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation during this time.

            As part of our campaign strategy, we will be partnering with various youth and community organizations to encourage uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine.

            This coming weekend, on Saturday the 29th of May, we will be partnering with Bahamas Harvest Church, Mt. Tabor Church and New Destiny Baptist Church, to host a vaccination blitz.

            To make an appointment online for one of the Saturday sites visit vax.gov.bs and click on the site

            We are very pleased with the progress of the national covid-19 vaccine campaign.

We could not do this without the help of so many healthcare workers, volunteers, civic and religious groups and members of the public.

We are particularly indebted to the efforts to Mr. Ed Fields who has provided logistical support, in particular with the Family Island rollout; Mr. Barry Rassin for coordinating the volunteers and our technical and data lead Dr. Danny Davis, in addition to all the members of the committee who are working tirelessly to ensure a successful campaign.

The public health staff at the Ministry of Health has helped make this campaign successfull throught their commitment, dedication and skill set, navigating throughout the archipelago. They are to be commended.

Please continue to follow the Ministry of Health’s and Office of the Prime Minister’s social media platforms for updates on the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

            Thank you.