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Withdrawn Covid-19 vaccine sparsely used in Bermuda

Covid-19 is still a danger to the public, the health minister has warned as she reminded people to keep up with vaccinations to protect themselves.

Kim Wilson told The Royal Gazette: “We are sure that people are not testing as often as they were, but we are still seeing cases of Covid, as well as hospital cases.

“I think that three weeks ago there was a death. It’s still out there.

“The public can get the vaccine from their private doctor or from the government health clinic on Victoria Street in Hamilton — you need to call first to make an appointment.”

Ms Wilson’s comments on Friday came after a widely used vaccine against Covid-19 was withdrawn from the global market.

Manufacturers of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine said it had been outpaced by more up-to-date shots.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has also been linked to rare, occasionally serious side effects — but there were no serious reactions reported from its limited use in Bermuda, according to health officials.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, initially widely used in Britain and the European Union in the 2021 roll-out of the jab against the coronavirus, was shipped to Bermuda on April 6, 2021.

However, it was given to only a fraction of residents.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, used in the launch of Bermuda’s vaccination programme from January 11, 2021, ultimately accounted for 99.7 per cent of the inoculations, the Ministry of Health reported.

The official notice from AstraZeneca is that it initiated the worldwide removal of its Covid-19 vaccine because of a “surplus of available updated vaccines” since the pandemic.

The pandemic was officially declared in March 2020 by the World Health Organisation, with the WHO declaring an end to the global health emergency in May 2023.

At that point, Bermuda’s confirmed death toll linked to Covid-19 stood at 165.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical corporation that developed the vaccine in partnership with Oxford University, also acknowledged in February that the jab had been linked to a rare but serious side-effect known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, or TTS, caused by blood clotting.

The health ministry said last week that a total of 48,962 people received the jab against Covid-19 during the vaccination programme — with “practically all the vaccine uptake” credited to the Pfizer shot.

“Only 128 persons, all adults 18 to 80 years old, or a third of 1 per cent of persons, 0.3 per cent, were vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

“No adverse events were reported after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.”

Vaccines against Covid-19 faced scepticism from some in Bermuda despite being endorsed by many physicians.

The island’s restrictions during the public health emergency also led to protests from residents who saw the regulations as discriminating against people who chose not to take the vaccine.

Ultimately the majority of the island’s AstraZeneca jabs were never administered and had to be donated because of low uptake ahead of the shot’s expiry date.

The ministry said: “In May 2021, approximately 93 per cent of Bermuda’s stock of AstraZeneca, 9,000 doses, were gifted to Trinidad because our AstraZeneca stocks vastly exceeded local demand for AstraZeneca, and we also had sufficient Pfizer doses in stock to meet overall vaccine demand.

“No further restocking of AstraZeneca occurred.”

Certain vaccines, such as the shot against the measles virus, confer long-term protection.

However, Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is part of a category known as RNA viruses, which mutate easily, churning out variations such as the Delta strain that accounted for a major surge in Bermuda’s infections in the latter half of 2021.

In December 2021, it was displaced by a new variant, labelled Omicron by health authorities.

The JN.1 strain of the virus has dominated so far in 2024.

However, a new variety known as KP.2 now accounts for about a quarter of Covid-19 cases in the United States.

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Published May 13, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 13, 2024 at 7:55 am)

Withdrawn Covid-19 vaccine sparsely used in Bermuda

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