Top doctor appeals to people to protect others over the festive season with Christmas vaccination
A plea for the public to give a Christmas gift of protection to others and get vaccinated was made by the Chief Medical Officer yesterday.
Ayo Oyinloye warned that the Covid-19 pandemic was not over and that the virus flourished with human contact.
He said: “This is the Christmas period, we’re going into a very social time of the year.
“The pandemic is still here – it’s not gone away.”
Dr Oyinloye added: “This is a virus that thrives on human contact.
“It’s our responsibility to protect each other and the way to do that is making sure we get vaccinated.”
He highlighted that the jabs were not just for the social “privileges” they may give.
Dr Oyinloye said: “The purpose of vaccination is not just to get the benefits, it’s to protect yourself and reduces your chance of passing it on to others.
“Please, if you are eligible for the boosters, get that done.”
He reminded the public that the last date to get a booster shot this year would be December 23.
Dr Oyinloye added: “We’re working on the programme for next year but it’s not likely to be the same format.
“There may be a cost associated with it going forward … so it’s best, if you are eligible, to do it this side of Christmas.”
He said: “If you are going to be with loved ones, particularly older, vulnerable people, it might be a good idea to take an antigen test before you go and visit them.
“Make sure you are not infectious, make sure you are not passing something else to your loved ones – apart from Christmas gifts, of course.”
Dr Oyinloye added that a case of the Omicron variant – the first identified on the island and announced by Kim Wilson, the health minister, on Tuesday – was in someone who had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccination but not a booster shot.
Dr Oyinloye highlighted that it was too early to tell if the Omicron mutation was milder than the Delta variant that swept the island a few months ago.
He said that information gathered on Omicron so far was largely based on experience in southern Africa, where Delta was not the main strain.
Dr Oyinloye added: “In much of the other parts of the world, the people who’ve been identified with this strain of virus tend to be younger people.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen if this gets into the older population.”
The latest figures showed that 70.3 per cent of the island had received two vaccine doses.
The Government said earlier that a figure of 70 per cent vaccination was the goal for Bermuda to hit herd immunity to Covid-19.
But Dr Oyinloye explained: “Herd immunity is a concept where you have enough people protected in a society either from natural infection or from vaccination to mean that a virus or a micro-organism can no longer spread and when it comes to that population it meets dead ends.”
The CMO said the approach was used in circumstances where the virus was “fairly static”.
He added: “In this instance we have seen that the Sars-Cov-2 virus constantly mutates.
“The mutation confers a transmission advantage to it and therefore your original assumptions don’t hold with the different virus.”
Dr Oyinloye said: “Your calculations for herd immunity for the strain from Wuhan, where the first known case of the virus was found, is not the same as the one for the Delta strain that we have.
“If the early signs are to be believed, Omicron is even worse in terms of transmissibility than Delta.”
He added: “Having an arbitrary figure of 70 per cent for herd immunity would work in a stable virus but not when the virus is constantly changing.”
Dr Oyinloye admitted he could not give a “realistic“ target for vaccination.
But he said: “What I would like is to see everybody who is eligible vaccinated."
Dr Oyinloye, a former deputy director of public health and a consultant in public health for Swindon Borough Council, in England, was heavily involved in pandemic management in the area.
He said: “I came here thinking I was going to work on health reforms but Covid had other ideas.”
Dr Oyinloye explained: “Covid response has been all-encompassing – it’s been very difficult to do anything else, much to the frustration of some of the colleagues I have to work with.
“We are beginning to work, as a ministry, on the universal healthcare agenda.
“We are also looking at a little bit of reform around the way the Bermuda Medical Council operates, so that’s also a work in progress.
“I’ve not had as much time to dedicate to that as I would wish, but we’re making some small but steady progress in those areas.”
Dr Oyinloye warned that high healthcare spending per head in Bermuda did not necessarily mean better results.
He said: “What that’s telling me is that there is enough money in the system to get us better outcomes – we just need to make sure that the money is spent in the right places and for the right things.
“That, to me, was a challenge. I was looking forward to coming to address that, coming to Bermuda.”