Medical professionals answered questions from the public on the COVID-19 vaccines.
PHILIPSBURG--The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA has finally unveiled details surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination plan expected to start at the end of the month.
The ministry provided the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination programme plans on Thursday, prior to the pre-planned COVID-19 discussion panel. In line with the start of the campaign the ministry featured a panel of medical professionals sharing information about the vaccines and answering questions posed by the public.
Speakers on the panel included CPS head and epidemiologist Eva Lista-de Weever, White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) Manager of Operations Bregje Boetekees, general practitioner Dr. Anand Raghosing and medical immunologist and Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation Director Dr. A.J. Duits.
VSA Minister Richard Panneflek opened the programme which was hosted by Roylyka Roache of the Department of Communication DComm.
Starting off the panel discussion Dr. Duits provided an in-depth explanation about the vaccine, clinical trials and the safety of taking the vaccine. This was followed by a short presentation by Lista-de Weever about the programme and the logistics of the vaccination plan.
The first batch of vaccines is expected to arrive in St. Maarten mid-February. Lista-de Weever stated during the panel discussion that the ministry’s aim is to roll out the vaccines in the last week of February. No exact date was provided.
The arriving vaccines will be the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines. It was noted in the pre-released COVID-19 plan that limited doses of vaccines will be available. It is expected that later in 2021 the availability will increase. In later batches it is possible that St. Maarten will receive other brands of vaccine.
According to the ministry, Panneflek has defined the priority groups according to the advice from the Health Council in the Netherlands to prioritise persons at risk of spreading COVID-19 and persons with increased risk of becoming severely ill when they get COVID-19.
This means that in the first round of vaccination, healthcare professionals and persons age 60 years or older will be offered the vaccine. In later phases the vaccine will be offered free of charge, to everyone living in St. Maarten, including persons who are not officially registered.
The administration of the vaccines will be carried out using five priority clusters. Healthcare professionals are in the first cluster, followed by persons 60 years and older, then persons 18-59 years who have underlying medical conditions, followed by essential workers and those in “critical industries”, and finally all other persons ages 18-59 years. The ministry said there will be no immigration checks at the vaccination locations.
Registration for the COVID-19 vaccine is available to the public. Registrations will be processed through the use of an online form, or via forms that can be picked up at general practitioners’ offices, pharmacies and key government locations.
Once the vaccine becomes available for each group, this will be announced on various media channels such as social media, Facebook, telecom messages, government websites, newspaper and radio broadcasting. When these announcements have been made, per group, persons can register online.
Three strategic locations have been announced by the ministry. These are: the Vineyard Building in Philipsburg, the Dutch Quarter Community Centre and the Cole Bay Community Centre.
A specially trained vaccination team will be present at each location to administer the vaccines. These teams include a doctor, nurses, medical professionals and translators.
Lista-de Weever said one of the objectives of the ministry is to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population in St. Maarten before the start of the hurricane season.
She assured that there is no delay in the roll-out of the vaccine and the programme will move ahead as planned.
In preparation for the storage of the vaccines, Lista-de Weever explained that the three locations have been outfitted with sufficient generators in the event of a power outage. Once the vaccines have arrived on the island, their transport and storage will be monitored by a team of pharmacists who will ensure that strict protocols will be adhered to.
Also noted during the discussion was the provision of a vaccination booklet to all persons who have been vaccinated. This will be an official document containing the batch sticker of the vaccine received.
During the question and answer segment all panellists were asked whether they will be taking the vaccine once available to them. All assured that they will. In fact, many highlighted the importance of safeguarding not only their health, but also that of their families, colleagues, patients and the community at large. Boetekees expressed her willingness to have herself filmed while being administered the vaccine as a means to show the importance of getting vaccinated.
Persons can find the COVID-19 vaccination plan via the government’s official website.