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Highly contagious Covid-19 variants detected in Bermuda

A “highly infectious” Covid-19 variant is among two new strains now detected in Bermuda by health officials.

The BF.7 Omicron variant, said to be three times as contagious as previous versions of the coronavirus, is present along with another strain labelled BQ.1.

The variant, which has been blamed for a recent surge in cases within China, is said to be faster-spreading than earlier ones.

Symptoms of BF.7 infection mimic influenza and the common cold, and include cold, cough, fever and body pain.

Mask-wearing and availing of the Covid-19 booster shot are “strongly recommended”, said Kim Wilson, the health minister.

But she said she had been “encouraged by the booster uptake in our community”.

Ms Wilson said data showed that boosted people continued to avoid getting seriously ill and ending up in hospital.

She added: “Vaccination remains the best way to fight the coronavirus.”

She called on all those eligible for the booster jab to take it as soon as possible – saying Covid-19 vaccines remained widely available through GPs and participating pharmacies.

Details are available online at the government website.

Vaccine eligibility

• Children 5 to 11 years old are eligible for a first or second dose only. The time between doses must be at least 21 days.

• People 12 and above are eligible for first, second or third dose. The time between the first and second dose must be at least 21 days. The time between the second dose and third dose booster must be at least five months.

• Residents aged 50 or older, and immunocompromised residents of any age are eligible for a fourth dose, and subsequent doses, provided their last dose was at least five months ago.

• Health and essential workers of any age are eligible for a fourth dose, and subsequent doses, provided their last dose was at least five months ago.

Vaccines are perishable, and the ministry today gave The Royal Gazette figures of availability along with when stocks were expected to reach their use-by date.

As of Tuesday, 732 Pfizer shots remained – to expire at the end of January, 2023.

No more doses of the Pfizer paediatric vaccine were left in stock.

There were 590 doses left of the Moderna Bivalent vaccine – to expire on April 27.

The Bivalent vaccine is considered to be the most effective against the most recent variants.

The ministry is to make a decision closer to April on whether to offer the booster to people below the age of 50 if sufficient vaccines remain.

Overall, 68.8 per cent of the island’s eligible population has received a first booster, while 32.7 per cent have taken a second.

Third boosters have gone to 30.5 per cent of those eligible.

As of December 16, 3,255 boosters had been administered.

There were 86 third doses given: 40 Moderna, and 46 Pfizer.

For the fourth dose, 1,507 jabs were administered: 1,126 Moderna and 381 Pfizer.

Fifth doses totalled 1,662, with 1,541 Moderna shots given and 121 Pfizer.

Ms Wilson reminded the community to avoid close contact, crowded spaces and confined places with poor ventilation.

She urged special care for those living in a high-risk household.

Those deemed vulnerable to Covid-19 include adults with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, or anyone immune-compromised – as well as patients undergoing cancer treatment.

The Bermuda Government is issuing general online updates on Covid-19 via its website.

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Published December 24, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated December 26, 2022 at 10:41 am)

Highly contagious Covid-19 variants detected in Bermuda

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