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Live updates: Boosters available to people aged over 50

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Vaccine booster shots will be available to all people over the age of 50, the health minister announced today.

Bermuda will also introduce the use of vaccines for emergency use among 5 to 11 year olds once the UK agrees to their application, it was revealed at a Government press conference today.

Kim Wilson said the boosters – which have been administered to 5,512 people so far – would also be available to all people with chronic health conditions who had already been vaccinated.

Boosters are administered only to people who had the first two doses of the vaccine more than six months ago.

Ms Wilson said earlier that Bermuda had administered 85,820 vaccinations since January. As of October 30, 86 per cent of all residents over 65 have had one vaccination and 84.5 per cent are fully immunised.

She said 70.6 per cent of all residents have had one vaccine dose and 69 per cent have had two doses.

Ms Wilson said of people who went to hospital with Covid-19, 13 who were fully vaccinated had died while 78 were not.

She said 269 hospital patients were not fully vaccinated and 34 were fully vaccinated.

Ms Wilson said some people were not showing up for their second vaccine appointment and urged people to call and reschedule if they were unable to attend.

On boosters, Ms Wilson said the last booster clinic at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital will be on December 22. It is held on Wednesdays and Sundays by appointment only.

She said boosters are available to emergency and healthcare workers. From tomorrow, the booster programme will also be available to all people over the age of 50 as well as those with chronic health problems.

Ms Wilson noted that more people had died from Covid-19 than had been killed military service in both world wars. She said a memorial service for those who had died as a result of the pandemic will be held next week.

Ms Wilson also emphasised that the rapid antigen tests approved for use last month were not a substitute for the “gold standard” PCR tests.

She said they should not be used to contravene medical directions for positive PCR tests and noted there had been one instance last week where a person tested negative for Covid-19 with an antigen test but then tested positive with a PCR test.

Dr Ayo Oyinloye, the chief medical officer, said the FDA had authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children aged 5 through 11.

He said the authorisation came after Pfizer tested the vaccine in more than 5,000 children in the age group and produced similar levels of efficacy as the it did in older age groups.

He said the children’s vaccine was about a third of the dose administered to adults.

He said increasing numbers of children had tested positive for Covid-19 in successive outbreaks in Bermuda, with almost 400 children under the age of 18 – with a particularly big increase in the 5-11 age group – testing positive in the fourth wave.

Dr Oyinloye noted that the agreement with the UK government which required Bermuda to follow UK practices meant Bermuda could not offer the vaccine to children under the age of 11 until the UK agreed to it and this had not yet happened.

But he said Bermuda would offer it once the UK had authorised it.

Turning to Covid-19 treatments, Dr Oyinloye said a new anti-viral drug developed by Merck Sharpe and Dohme was showing great promise in clinical trials, cutting hospital admissions by 50 per cent. Another Pfizer anti-viral also showed promise in clinical trials.

He said monoclonal antibodies were also being reviewed. He said in certain cases, these could reduce mortality by up to 80 per cent, but were not for everybody.

He said booster shots had been given to almost 40 per cent of eligible 70- to 79-year-olds, while about a third of the eligible people aged over 80 had received a booster shot so far.

Dr Oyinloye said it was critical to get the best protection available as viral infections increased over the winter months, including Covid-19.

He said more vaccines were expected to arrive next week and Bermuda had an adequate supply.

Dr Oyinloye said people should also get their flu jabs when offered them in order to increase protection from the flu. There was some evidence of people getting both Covid-19 and the flu, he added.

Regarding the latest outbreak, he said it was important not to relax. He said some cases were still being diagnosed with no known cause of infection which meant Bermuda was still suffering from community transmission.

Dr Wesley Miller, chief of staff at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, said hospital discharges were outpacing admissions and he said there was only one Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit, a far cry from earlier in the outbreak.

He said virtually all hospital staff were now back at work and as of Monday, out-patient services were increased as were out-patient elective surgeries.

Dr Miller reported that 85 per cent of KEMH nurses have had at least one dose of the vaccine and 82 per cent had had both doses. He said 68 per cent of all BHB staff are now fully immunised and another three percent have had their first dose of the vaccine.

He said KEMH staff were getting the booster shot and the hospital was encouraging this. So far, he said the uptake seemed “good“.

In answer to questions, Ms Wilson said the boosters were being offered to younger people and health care professionals earlier because the uptake in the older age groups had not been as widespread as hoped.

Ms Wilson said no Delta plus variants had been identified in Bermuda yet.

Asked about Bermuda reaching “herd immunity”, Dr Oyinloye said the rapid mutation of the Covid-19 virus meant that the definition of herd immunity had changed. Because the Delta variant was more virulent than the original virus, the level of immunisation needed to be higher.

Dr Oyinloye noted that immunisation was not uniform across the community, meaning that a community wide level of immunisation did not necessarily mean everyone was safe when immunisation reached a different level.

Ms Wilson said Bermuda had “vaccine deserts” where immunisation levels were very low. This meant that national levels of immunisation did not mean all neighbourhoods were safe.

Asked if doctors would be able to get supplies of the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-old children before the UK approved it, Dr Oyinloye said this would be difficult to do as the vaccine was normally obtained by governments.

Asked if Government would support charging people who refused to get vaccinations more for insurance, Ms Wilson said this was a decision for private insurance companies, but she believed it was more important to keep encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Regarding the racial breakdown of deaths from Covid-19, Ms Wilson noted there was a historic legacy of mistrust for medical treatment and vaccinations within the Black community.

She confirmed the vast majority of deaths had occurred in the Black community and some could have been avoided if people had been vaccinated.

Dr Miller said there was no question of vaccines not being accessible to the whole community, but he said misconceptions about the vaccine were spread by Facebook, “a certain radio station” and by some medical practitioners who should have known better. This meant some people did not get the vaccine.

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Published November 03, 2021 at 5:47 pm (Updated November 03, 2021 at 5:47 pm)

Live updates: Boosters available to people aged over 50

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