COVID-19 update and press conference- February 7, 2021. (PMO)

Health specialists are encouraging Barbadians who are eligible to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to do so.

Among those making the appeal are medical practitioner and Deputy Dean of Internationalisation and Recruitment of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Kenneth Connell, and retired Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand.

The two were addressing a press conference at Ilaro Court last evening that dealt with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Responding to whether the COVID-19 asymptomatic positive patient should take the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Connell stressed: “The guidance so far has not been against taking the vaccine except in people who are symptomatic, and that is for obvious reasons.  If you are symptomatic, your immune system is currently engaged in fighting a virus and it probably might not be the wisest thing to take a vaccine.

“Anyone who is ill, you have to also understand that your body is not just an immune system.  Several other systems are involved in the fight against whatever infection, whatever illness is involved. For instance, if you have symptoms for heart failure; if you have just had a stroke, these acute events or sudden events are never the time to take a vaccine because your body as a whole is managing an urgency or an emergency.”

Further encouraging the population to be vaccinated, Dr. Connell pointed out that variants were always going to emerge, and stressed the longer the population took to be vaccinated, there was more time for variants to emerge. 

“If there is one positive population benefit that all of us can get besides herd immunity is to stop the emergence of variants, since all of us would have some type of immunity,” he stated.

With respect to pregnancy, he stressed if the individual is eligible for it, she should have a discussion with the obstetrician, who would then weigh the benefit/risk with respect to the particular pregnancy and the exposure at home, and then decide whether that person should take the vaccine.

While noting that fever is not seen as an adverse reaction to a vaccine, the medical practitioner said it was an expected reaction, and could be easily treated with paracetamol, taken on a continuous basis, and as directed by a health care provider.

Dr. Connell said persons who had recovered from COVID-19 still needed to take the vaccine.  “There is no evidence that the immunity from having had this disease is protective enough to even stop you from getting it again, and also to stop you from getting very ill.  So, to be very clear, if you have recovered from COVID-19, … you should be vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, explained why persons over the age of 65 should take the vaccine. She stressed that they really needed to be targeted as it had been shown that the majority of people who got the virus, with it progressing to being serious, were those with chronic diseases and the elderly.  

“So, we are going to be trying to vaccinate as many of the elderly as possible,” she said, acknowledging that any concerns about taking the vaccine should be discussed with a medical practitioner.

“The Ministry of Health and all their practitioners are in the polyclinics and in other institutions, and if they have a doctor, they should ask a question….  I’m hoping that the media and other media avenues that we are going to be following will be seen by every social class and age group because we don’t just want the elderly; we want everyone to know and we want the younger people to encourage the older people to come and get their vaccine,” Dr. Ferdinand said.

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