Local doctors are warning that increased vaccination alone will not be enough to suppress the current spread of COVID-19 given the magnitude of community transmission already gripping the country.
Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that scores of “livid” doctors have been complaining that their voices are not being heard as they work over time and under increasing pressure on the frontlines.
In fact, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) has declared that the transmission of the highly infectious Delta variant, primarily among the unvaccinated, is significantly ahead of population immunity with seven-day averages of over 250 cases and two deaths per day.
Furthermore, independent virologist Dr Brendan Larder described suggestions that vaccination would reduce the likelihood of contracting and spreading COVID-19 from Prime Minister Mia Mottley as a “serious scientific error”.
After meeting with more than 400 doctors for four hours on Sunday, Prime Minister Mottley again rejected the idea of further restricting movement, instead promising that a higher vaccination rate could unlock the door to more freedom.
“There are those who would say ‘shut down again, lockdown again’, but my friends, you and I know that lockdowns don’t work and a lockdown is not going to work after 20 months of fatigue,” the Prime Minister declared at a news conference on Monday.
“In a perfect world, that makes absolute sense, but the world is not a perfect world and the reality is that if you lock down, you are causing people to lose jobs, lose money, lose businesses in some instances,” Mottley added.
The position counters that of BAMP who informed members of the association’s varied position hours before the PM’s address to the nation.
“At present, 41 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated and though commendable, we reiterate the fact that transmission of the Delta variant, predominantly in the unvaccinated, is well ahead of our population immunity,” said the statement signed by BAMP President Dr Lynda Williams.
“BAMP calls for urgent reconsideration of the numbers allowed to gather in bars and rum shops, social events/meetings, indoor venues, places of worship, and commercial businesses. It is from these social interactions that the virus is brought back to the household to spread within families. We also call for days of no/limited movement to be instituted, with the purpose of increasing community vaccination on these days,” the physician added.
The association reiterated that doctors are struggling to maintain existing health services to the high numbers of persons suffering from obesity, asthma, hypertension, and diabetes.
“Patients with chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are frequently presenting with late-stage complications, largely due to delays in care. We are also concerned that the full impact of delays in elective surgeries, antenatal care, immunizations and primary health services, is yet to be seen,” BAMP warned.
In her address, PM Mottley declared that the rising case numbers were expected, and pleaded with Barbadians to get vaccinated. She made clear that Government will require all people working on the frontlines to either be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 to ensure that the work environment remains ‘safe’.
“The doctors have been very clear that if you are vaccinated, you have less of a chance of catching it, you have less of a chance of being contaminated and you have less of a chance of literally dying from it,” said PM Mottley.
While the PM’s new direction is consistent with BAMP’s calls for mandatory vaccination of frontline workers, Dr Larder identified a “serious scientific error” in Mottley’s suggestion that those who are vaccinated are less likely to contract and spread COVID-19.
“The scientific research for Delta infections says the opposite,” said Dr Larder, a virologist based in the United Kingdom. In fact, on average, vaccinated persons infected with the Delta variant have very similar high levels of highly infectious virus in their nose & throat as unvaccinated persons.
“So basically, vaccination cannot be used as a tool to prevent infections and prevent the spread of the Delta variant. The suggestion that it can is plainly wrong and misleading. The main purpose of vaccination is to protect a person from severe disease and death by suppressing infection in the lungs,” he added.