‘Young people, take COVID-19 jab’

The Delta variant of COVID-19 has been accelerating through scores of households on the island, Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has revealed while Prime Minister Mia Mottley appealed for young people to get vaccinated against the deadly disease.

There are currently 84 family clusters being monitored by health officials, with some eight clusters being reported on Sunday alone, according to the health minister.

“Obviously with the Delta variant we have community transmission, so we have cases springing up across the country. There are a number of new clusters, quite a few family clusters… today alone we have eight family clusters, comprising between two to seven persons, and between the 1st of September and today, I believe there are about 84 family clusters ranging from about two to eight  persons [per cluster],” Lt Col. Bostic told a media briefing on Monday.

“So you can see it is widespread. We also have some other clusters in the commercial sector of the country,” he said.

On Monday, the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory had identified 78 new cases of COVID-19, made up of 36 males and 42 females from 1,328 tests conducted on Sunday, September 12. Of these new cases, 22 people are under the age of 18 and 56 are 18 years and older, with 738 people currently being in isolation.

Since the start of the pandemic, the island has recorded 5,984 confirmed cases of the viral illness (2,983 females and 3,001 males). There have been 52 deaths. The public health lab has performed 284,619 tests.

The development prompted Prime Minister Mottley to step up her call for young Barbadians to come forward to receive the COVID-19 vaccine amid the surge of infections driven by a strain of the coronavirus that is not only virulent but targets younger people.

As she joined the health minister at the live COVID-19 update from Ilaro Court, she stressed that the number of young people contracting the virus daily is steadily rising, and that rise has been seen quite clearly with some 84 family clusters currently being monitored by health officials.

“Since the 1st of September, over 200 of our young people under 18 have caught COVID. In yesterday’s numbers, 30 per cent of the persons turning positive were under 18, the day before, 25 per cent,” said Mottley. “Let us get real – if the Delta [variant] is highly transmissible and young people can catch it, and young people are not vaccinated, they will catch it and will also help spread it.”

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to 5,500 adolescents, the Prime Minister revealed. She said some 26,000  doses remain available of the vaccine, which has been approved for ages 12 and over.

The Prime Minister made a direct appeal for Barbadians to come forward and get vaccinated, not just for their safety but for their loved ones as well.

She said: “I appeal now to all parents, all aunts and uncles, to all godparents, to all grandparents, to all neighbours, to all teachers… let us ensure that those who are 12 to 18 as far as possible are vaccinated, and equally until such time as there is a vaccine for toddlers to 12, then let us make sure that those adults among us, that we take the vaccine to protect those who cannot protect themselves. That is the Bajan way.”

She acknowledged that a common communication strategy was needed to respond to widespread misinformation currently circulating among the population. But she emphasized that Barbadians, who have long had a history of seeking professional medical help whenever they were in need, should not change tack now, and instead stick to the professionals for medical advice on the vaccines.

“I’d like us to do that to get out of this – how many more must die, before we recognize that the persons who are at risk most now in this country are the unvaccinated, as they are globally.”

Under the National Vaccination Programme for COVID-19, 120,863 first doses have been administered. A total of 96,392 persons (35.6 per cent of the population) have received their second doses and are fully vaccinated.