COVID-19 update and press conference – February 8, 2021. (PMO)

Vaccines have saved the lives of many Barbadians over the decades and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be distributed shortly, will be no different, says Senior Health Sister at the Branford Taitt Polyclinic, Julyette Serrano.

Ms. Serrano, who is also President of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ Immunisation Committee and a member of the COVID-19 Vaccine Planners’ Committee, said in her 22 years as a public health nurse, she had seen no evidence of severe adverse reactions to vaccines.

“What we expect, more or less, is a mild reaction to the vaccine; some degree of pain at the injection site and you might have a bit of a fever. Anytime a vaccine is given to an individual for the first time, we always advise that person to stay within the clinic environment, at least for 15 minutes, so that we can see how [they] react to that particular vaccine,” she explained.

Stating that she had vaccinated thousands of Barbadians throughout her career, the Senior Health Sister said she had seen vaccines reduce the suffering and morbidity rates among Barbadians by protecting them from diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, polio and meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord, especially in babies and young children).

If left untreated, polio can cause physical deformities, while measles may result in long-term health effects, including brain damage, hearing loss, and immune suppression and other conditions. 

Ms. Serrano also cited an “uneventful” and successful vaccination campaign against seasonal influenza “where thousands were vaccinated” prior to Cricket World Cup 2007, which was hosted in Barbados.

“We see the situation that is occurring within our country as a result of COVID. We know the benefits of vaccines.  Vaccines are effective public health interventions and with the introduction of this vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, the data suggests that, along with the other [brands] of COVID-19 vaccines, there has been a reduction in the incidence of COVID-19,” she emphasised.

Ms. Serrano said it would take a national effort to vaccinate thousands of Barbadians, adding that retired public health nurses as well as members of the Barbados Registered Nurses Association and doctors have been answering the call by volunteering their services to the COVID-19 vaccination programme.  

She added that currently nurses were being trained in preparation for its launch. Frontline and health workers as well as some elderly and vulnerable persons are expected to benefit from the first 100,000 doses of vaccines, which are estimated to arrive sometime this week.

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