KINGSTON, Jamaica, August 24, 2021 - As of two days ago there were 213 million people infected with the coronavirus and 4.5 million deaths, (WHO updates). This is the comparison to January 2021 commencement of the vaccine roll out internationally, which recorded 93 million infected and 2 million deaths worldwide.
The world has vaccinated 5.0 billion people with at least one dose and 2.8-billion with two doses. This represents 35% of the world’s population being vaccinated, 24% fully vaccinated and only 1.4% in low income countries except India.
Today in Jamaica we have 63 thousand infected 1,400 dead from the virus. Since January, the world has more than doubled its infection rate and coronavirus death statistics. Jamaica on the other hand has quadrupled our infection rate of 15,000 and our deaths have increased 10 fold.
We have given 500,000 vaccine injections and 300 thousand are fully vaccinated, from a population of 2.9M people. We are now 10% vaccinated. This is just about 14% of ‘herd immunity’ which is the lowest take-up in the Caribbean, outside of Haiti. With an official infection rate of over 800 per day in some days and more than 10 deaths, we are in serious crisis.
We must keep vaccinating young adults and children. Britain, USA and Canada are threatening to put us on red alert for travelling, thus threatening the tourism industry’s recovery and Jamaicans abroad visiting their homeland.
Importantly, we have now accepted officially that our population is infected with the Delta strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The next 15 days for school year commencement, and 4 months to Christmas look extremely precarious for the country's health and economy.
The hospitals are beyond their capacities, morgues are filled, the dollar is sliding, and lockdowns reduce the ability for economic activities and employment. This means increased suffering and misery especially amongst the poor.
The nurses and doctors are overwhelmed, getting not only sick but exhausted, frustrated and contend that the government is not listening to them. The population is scared and confused about the ability of the country and government to control the pandemic.
The sceptics and especially the anti vaxxers are increasingly vocal. Mirad of recommendations, panic and hopelessness are part of our reality as Covid 19 marches on.
The pandemic continues to infect and kill family members and some of our prominent citizens, especially the unvaccinated with comorbidities. It does not discriminate, leaving many with long Covid night mares. Young people and children aren’t spared anymore and represent a growing segment of our nation’s dire Covid-19 statistics.
The answer is to understand the virus, understand the human scientific and organizational capacity and act in a coordinated manner to resolve this human catastrophe.
Covid-19 will be with us for at least the next 10 years. The ability of the virus to mutate, create new more infections, more deadly variants, escapes the dragnet of the most modernized vaccines.
It Infects the younger population including children and is crossing the species barrier to infect cats, minks, rats, and other animals. Being isolated in sewage and waterways is frightening. It attacks most of our immune system, human social and economic organization and threatens our very existence.
A paper that was written in a scientific journal recently stated that the Delta strain is the most infectious virus ever known to modern man, and easier to ‘catch’ than the common cold.
Our task as individuals, country and a society is to develop long-term goals and policies and effective short term actions to reduce its spread, morbidity and mortality.
Take note all of these changes as adaptations are within our capacity as human beings. For the individual, personal hygiene, mask wearing and physical distancing are a must for our survival.
Avoid crowds, persons coughing, sneezing and those without masks, especially in the public and at the workplace. Wash and sanitize your hands and surfaces.
Government and policymakers must engage the science and vaccination programmes must aim for herd immunity in the shortest possible time; in less than a month. We must engage healthcare workers and improve the system of delivery. Engage the Ivermectin, Antiviral and Serum Antibodies groups, and assist them.
It must be based on prevention, early diagnosis, early and effective medical management of the symptoms and signs, as well as effective treatment of the very ill especially with comorbidities.
We must engage the economic planners, the social (church/community) and political forces; we also must engage the legal luminaries especially for individual rights and responsibilities.
In addition we must not forget the sceptics and anti vaxxers, traditional medicines and local research and solutions, Caribbean, International partnerships and WHO.
This is a handful but I will be doing smaller papers and podcasts in the future.
Neville Graham OD, FRCS, Consultant Surgeon and Executive Dean Caribbean School of Medical Sciences Jamaica(CSMSJ)