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OBA concern over low vaccine rate for hospital staff

Concerns: Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister (File photograph)

The Opposition yesterday raised a red flag over the low number of healthcare staff who have had the Covid-19 vaccine.

Michael Dunkley, the One Bermuda Alliance’s shadow health minister, said he was concerned after The Royal Gazette revealed that only half of Bermuda Hospitals Board nursing staff had been vaccinated and more than a quarter of doctors employed at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had yet to get the jab.

He added that it was “critically important” that front line workers were protected from the coronavirus.

Mr Dunkley said: "The issue of vaccine hesitancy remains a significant concern in spite of efforts to allay fears.

“The vaccination numbers for nurses and doctors at the hospital, if correct, is a concern.

“Bermuda is blessed to have dedicated healthcare professionals, front line workers, and we are very grateful for their service and tireless work every day year in and year out, but especially through the pandemic.

“It is critically important that they have all the protection available in doing their job and the vaccine is the best tool.

Medical professionals were given priority to get the jab when the vaccine drive started in January.

The vaccine figures were revealed by Wesley Miller, the Bermuda Hospitals Board chief of staff, who admitted more needed to be done to combat vaccine hesitancy among health professionals.

Mr Dunkley said: “The OBA thanks all who have taken the vaccine and hope others take advantage of the opportunity to have the jab.

“We are fortunate to have a vaccine on island so fast when other countries still struggle to obtain supplies. Let us all make the most of this protection.

“We heard Dr. Miller express his concern about the potential challenge of having staff available to meet the demand for care during this spike.

“More vaccinated professionals at the hospital would mean more protection for those in Covid areas of the facility, less leave due to illness and no need to potentially reassign non-vaccinated professionals to non-Covid areas.”

The Royal Gazette e-mailed questions on health workers’ vaccination to David Burt, the Premier, and Kim Wilson, the health minister, through Government’s Department of Communications.

They were asked if they were disappointed by the figures, and if they were doing anything to increase vaccination rates among healthcare staff.

The Government was also asked to release a breakdown of vaccination statistics for other front line workers such as emergency services personnel.

A response was received – but it failed to answer any of the questions.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are seeing attitudes changing towards the Covid-19 vaccine and this is also clear in the number of people who are actually getting vaccinated.

“Vaccination rates among all age categories continue to improve with a record number of doses being administered last week.

“We are pleased that in the last public survey, undertaken in March, 64 per cent of the population said that they would definitely/probably get the vaccine.

“Compared with December 2020, that number was 44 per cent.”

She added: “Similarly, those who said they definitely/probably would not get the vaccine dropped from 52 per cent to 23 per cent.

“When that 64 per cent number is added to the 11 per cent that says they have already received the vaccine, that total moves to 75 per cent of the population that are prepared to get the most effective protection against severe coronavirus disease.

“We are gratified that more residents are answering the call to get vaccinated to help protect our community. The vast majority of medical professionals in Bermuda support vaccinations.”

The spokeswoman told the public: “For anyone who hasn't yet registered for the vaccine, please talk to your doctor and get their opinion.

“Following that conversation, if advised, please register for an appointment at gov.bm or take advantage of the walk-in vaccinations.”

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Published April 24, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated April 24, 2021 at 5:18 am)

OBA concern over low vaccine rate for hospital staff

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