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WHO says Bermuda ‘in vanguard’ for regional Covid-19 vaccine rate

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Ian Stein, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands (Photograph supplied)

A World Health Organisation representative yesterday hailed the island’s Covid-19 vaccine rate as he called on residents to make sure all of their shots were up to date.

Ian Stein, the WHO and Pan American Health Organisation delegate for Bermuda, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, was speaking as part of a campaign to promote immunisations.

Vaccination Week in the Americas will be marked in Bermuda until April 29, with the theme Are you up to date with your vaccinations? and the hashtag getallyourshots.

Mr Stein said: “Let me take a moment to commend the Government of Bermuda and its Ministry of Health on their sustained promotion of the Covid-19 vaccine and your recent launch of the Bermuda Health Strategy, spanning 2022 to 2027.

“We recognise you as a vanguard in our region for surpassing the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of your population ahead of the June 30 target.”

He added: “When we look across the Americas we see there’s a number of challenges for many different places to reach this tremendous level at this stage.”

Mr Stein said the level of vaccine uptake was “a tribute” to hard work undertaken by people such as community leaders and public health service staff.

The Independent Allocation of Vaccines Group, set up about 16 months ago, called last year for 70 per cent Covid-19 vaccine coverage in all countries by mid-2022.

Figures released by the Bermuda Government last week showed that 74.1 per cent of the island’s population had received both doses of the vaccine.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph)

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, attributed the uptake to the “hard work and efforts” of the ministry’s team as well as to residents for taking personal responsibility to help reduce the risk of the coronavirus.

She said that the island’s mass vaccination programme was key to managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Wilson added: “We must focus on sustaining the gains of Bermuda’s vaccination programme through increased coverage of routine vaccinations and by growing awareness.”

The minister highlighted that immunisation figures suggested decreased uptake in routine vaccinations from 2019 to 2020.

As an example, she said that rotavirus vaccine coverage was 72, 75 and 87 per cent respectively in 2017, 2018 and 2019 but it dropped to 83 per cent in 2020.

Ms Wilson said: “Recognising a need for renewed confidence in vaccinations, we will seek to build awareness among the population while involving the key stakeholders, targeting local groups and encouraging peer-led education on vaccination.”

She highlighted that VWA was an opportunity for people to make sure their vaccinations are current.

Ms Wilson said that Bermy Germy, the child health mascot, and health department staff will raise awareness on North Shore Road tomorrow.

The mascot will also take part in a “dance walk” through Hamilton on Wednesday.

Ms Wilson said: “Plenty of reliable and credible research has proven time and time again that fears about vaccinations are unfounded.

“The evidence available makes it clear that unfortunately the complications from vaccine-preventable diseases are worse than people generally believe and may not be worth the risk of not being vaccinated.”

Mr Stein added: “Through the commitment of governments and the hard work of health workers, we have eliminated polio, measles, rubella, congenital rubella and neonatal tetanus.

“However, we are at a cross roads.

“Vaccine coverage for polio, measles and rubella, diphtheria and other childhood diseases had been falling from ten years before Covid struck.

“The pandemic exacerbated these trends, with increasing vaccine hesitancy linked, in part, to fake news.”

He added that VWA was the “perfect opportunity to reinforce the efforts that we know work”.

Mr Stein said it was a chance to ask: “Have we gotten all of our shots? Are we all up to date on all the different pieces that we need to be at?

“In this respect I think this campaign provides a great opportunity to know where we are to get all of our shots that are necessary.”

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Published April 26, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated April 26, 2022 at 7:54 am)

WHO says Bermuda ‘in vanguard’ for regional Covid-19 vaccine rate

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