Deadline for use of vaccine stocks nears
Bermuda’s supplies of coronavirus vaccine are nearing their end, with just 220 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine left, it was revealed last night.
But Kim Wilson, the health minister, said 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine remained in stock – enough for 2,500 people to get a full course of injections.
Next Tuesday is the last day to get the first dose of the Pfizer shot.
Ms Wilson appealed to the public to make their appointments for jabs as soon as possible.
She said the island would be paid for 470 AstraZeneca jabs that had been provided to Viking Cruises for the Viking Orion, which has homeported in Bermuda.
Ms Wilson warned that once stocks of vaccines expired, there was no guarantee that Bermuda would get more Pfizer vaccines.
More vaccines are on order from the Covax organisation, but Ms Wilson said the arrival date was not yet known.
She admitted she was unaware if any vaccines would be available from July 1, after the present supplies hit their expiry date.
David Burt, the Premier, said Bermuda’s public health emergency could be allowed to expire on June 24 if the community protection against the virus was achieved and on-island transmission was eliminated.
But Ms Wilson is to bring legislation to the House of Assembly today to allow the extension of the emergency for 60 days from June 24.
The move will be debated by MPs on June 18.
Mr Burt said that “almost all restrictions” were expected to stop after June 24, except for number limits on large gatherings and the requirement for mask-wearing indoors.
The news came as the Government announced no positive coronavirus cases for the sixth day in a row.
The latest 1,226 tests were all negative.
Two people have recovered from the virus, which left 17 active infections.
Ms Wilson said it was “our lowest number of cases in many, many weeks”.
One person is in hospital, although not in intensive care.
The improvement showed Bermuda was moving towards normality after a third major outbreak of the coronavirus caused 21 deaths and a huge spike in cases in April and May.
Phase 3 of pandemic measures, announced on Tuesday, will come into effect on Sunday.
Mr Burt said: “We are making progress and we are reclaiming our summer.”
He admitted he was “disappointed” Britain had not moved Bermuda on to its “green list” of safer travel jurisdictions.
He added: “What I can say is we are moving in the right direction.”
Mr Burt said the Government would “not have been comfortable moving to Phase 3”, which will allow a significant amount of businesses to reopen, if community transmission of the coronavirus was a major problem.
Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, explained Bermuda could not be moved off the World Health Organisation’s “community transmission” status until there were four weeks of statistics that proved Bermuda had sporadic cases.
But Dr Oyinloye said Bermuda was “on the cusp of three weeks”.
He said the same standard was required for Bermuda to move from the US Centres for Disease Control’s travel warning list.
Mr Burt said that sports events were now moving to phase 4.
He added that, in common with expectations for the Cup Match Classic, organisers of large sporting events could get approval for exemptions at 50 per cent of capacity as long as they used the SafeKey programme.
The personal coded “keys” showing individual negative tests for the virus, or showing that the holder was immunised, were developed free of charge by Dennis Pitcher, a government consultant.
The Premier said putting the SafeKey job out to tender would have meant extra expense for the Government.
He added the technology had been “just an adjunct” on the way to opening the island up for normal life.
SafeKeys are to be extended from June 15 when the initiative was scheduled to expire.
But Mr Burt clarified that people would not require SafeKey for indoor dining in restaurants from Sunday.
He was asked why restrictions on raft-ups, indoor dance recitals and other large events and overnight camping remained after other large group limitations were being relaxed.
Mr Burt said the Government was taking a measured approach, but hoped to lift all restrictions by June 24.
He said allowing raft-ups for up to 50 people would be too difficult to enforce.
Ms Wilson said 52.1 per cent of Bermuda residents were now immunised against the virus.
She said 76 per cent of people over the age of 80 were now immunised, as were 73 per cent of those aged 65 to 79, 66 per cent between the ages of 50 and 64, and 39 per cent of those aged up to 49.
Ms Wilson said the next “close to home” vaccination clinic would be on Sunday at Victor Scott Primary School in Pembroke from 10am to 2pm.
She highlighted that the majority of people getting vaccinations at the pop-up clinics were getting their first doses.
The mobile vaccination programme has delivered 2,665 vaccinations since it was launched on April 27.
Ms Wilson said that some in the public still had concerns that getting the jab could affect their fertility.
But she emphasised there was no evidence to suggest the fertility was affected by the coronavirus vaccine.
Ms Wilson said vaccines could also be given safely to pregnant women.
But she highlighted that pregnant women who fell ill with Covid-19 experienced more severe symptoms.