#TurksandCaicos, August 27, 2021 – The wall of defence which approved vaccines had given to their takers has been compromised, significantly. Health agencies around the world continue to warn that the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines has been cut down, 30 to 60 per cent since the emergence and insurgence of the delta strain of the coronavirus. While the continually changing facts about the virus and the vaccine have caused a boom in uptake, it has also resulted in increased skepticism about the integrity of information.
Doctors speaking to the Turks and Caicos general public however advise waiting or rejecting the vaccine is a dangerous posture to take.
Dr. Denise Braithwaite Tennant, CEO of the TCI hospitals was, on Wednesday night during a press conference, adamant that the vaccine still holds up with an 88 per cent rate of keeping you out of hospital and an over 90 per cent rate of keeping you from dying as a result of this fittest and fastest mutation.
“Fifty-six per cent of those patients required high-flow oxygen to care for them along with our other therapies and 44 per cent required use of the ventilator. That is high.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) still struggles to reach its initial target of a 70 per cent vaccination rate, on the way to herd immunity of 85 per cent. The marks are missed as vaccine interest has waned.
“Despite the accessibility of the vaccine throughout the country to residents, including 12 to 15 year olds the pace of the vaccine roll out has significantly slowed in recent weeks despite our best efforts. An analysis of the data captured in our electronic immunisation register highlights that approximately 35.8 per cent of 16-24 years age group, 39.4 per cent having received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Nadia Astwood, TCI Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
The CMO informed this group is concerning as the youth are more likely to flout health protocols like mask wearing and are the ones populating social gatherings. The CMO believes the high un-vaccinated rate has the potential to hurt a return to face-to-face learning at school.
Dr. Braithwaite Tenant shared demographics of some of the more recent hospital cases including 60 per cent being under 60 years old, 70 per cent being women and 70 per cent having pre-existing conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Turks and Caicos hospitals has been supported by Government in a temporary human resource solution, as it struggles to identify long-term medical staff.
“We have the continued support of the Cuban brigade with us, which helps us with our buffer supply. We have had progressive recruitment of our nurses to hire. We’ve been in Canada, the UK however we have aggressive ongoing recruitment to replace these vacancies.”
The motivation for her passionate plea for residents to get vaccinated emerged from health report on the current situation in Turks and Caicos amidst what was confirmed as the “third wave” of the coronavirus. Knowledge shared about the herculean task to get TCI residents to medical treatment abroad coupled with an over capacity Providenciales medical facility are hoped to move more people to get the jab.
“I would like to thank the team at the National Health Insurance Board , who worked around the clock, under challenging circumstances to find ICU care and ICU beds for our patients when the hospitals in their networks were themselves, experiencing their own demands to provide care to their community,” she said as more light is now being shed on the chronic threat which exists to the Medical Treatment Abroad Program.
Dr. Denise Braithwaite-Tenant, informed her main facility is at 105 per cent capacity and while the majority of the beds are not taken up by Covid 19 patients, they are still full.
“You can see that during this pandemic with its peaks and troughs, bed capacity is often challenged as a result of the increased hospitalisations and surges. It’s very important that you are aware and kept abreast because I hope this information will help you to make a decision about the Covid-19 vaccine and the importance it plays – as Dr. Astwood mentioned earlier – in the reduction of hospitalisations and the saving of lives to protect our small, but very hearty health care system and hospital.” said Dr. Braithwaite-Tenant.
The Cheshire Hall Medical Centre (CHMC) located in Providenciales is a 20-bed facility; currently 21 of those beds were, up to Wednesday, occupied. The Cockburn Town Medical Centre (CTMC) in Grand Turk is a 10 bed facility; 90 per cent of capacity is currently in use. Both centres have sufficient oxygen supply, using the newly installed oxygen generation system which has been a major stride in TCI health care.
“However, we do have our expansion beds available both in our day room and our outpatient; extra beds have already been pre-deployed and they are available,” she said about the Providenciales hospital.
One of three COVID patients at the CHMC had to be medically evacuated; the remaining patients were undergoing oxygen and other therapies. As many as eight have had to be put on ventilator, 56 per cent of the COVID patients have needed high flow oxygen and 70 per cent of those hospitalised with the coronavirus have been women.
Turks and Caicos is now with 69 active cases, nine of them new and all of those were identified in Providenciales. There are two people hospitalised for the virus.
#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2022 – Due to the recent rainfall throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Environmental Health Department (EHD) hereby advises residents, home owners, apartment owners and businesses to remove all debris & refuse/garbage from their premises and dispose appropriately at the public landfill/solid waste disposal sites on your respective island. The removal of debris & refuse/garbage from your premises will reduce mosquito breeding and prevent mosquito borne and other vector borne diseases such as Dengue fever.
As the Vector Control Unit of the Environmental Health Department continues to monitor and treat mosquito breeding sites, home owners, apartment owners and business owners are advised to treat standing water on their premises by using cooking oil or any other environmentally friendly oils to prevent mosquito breeding.
It is anticipated that mosquito populations and activities will increase over the coming weeks and it is important to remind residents that mosquito control is a shared responsibility. Residents and businesses can help reduce the growth and reproduction of mosquitoes in and around their homes, businesses and communities by taking the following precautionary measures:
- Check around buildings for anything that could hold water, inspect your home and yard weekly
- Turn containers over or cover them
- Get rid of or cover old tires
- Properly dispose of all garbage/refuse
- Cover boats, children’s pools, etc.
- Clean rain gutters and make sure they are flowing properly
- Check screens for holes
- Tightly cover water drums and rain barrels
For further information, contact the Environmental Health Department via telephone numbers 649-338-2143/44
[Excerpt] from an Mental Health & Well Being Open Consultation; United Kingdom
May 19, 2022 – “Approximately 1 in 6 people aged 16 and over in England were identified as having a common mental health condition in 2014, according to survey data. In 2020 to 2021, there were around half a million people with more severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. We have seen worrying trends for children and young people, with rates of probable mental health disorders in 6 to 16-year-olds rising from 11.6% in 2017 to 17.4% in 2021. More people than ever are receiving support for a mental health crisis and, tragically, the numbers of those ending their life through suicide have broadly increased over the past decade. We know that two-thirds of people who end their life by suicide are not in contact with NHS mental health services.
For many of us, the experience of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – and its wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, society and the economy – have brought these issues into sharper focus. Around 1 in 5 adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of 2021, over double pre-pandemic figures.
These problems aren’t felt equally by all of us. We know there is an uneven distribution of mental ill-health across society. People facing social and economic disadvantage are at a much higher risk of developing mental health conditions. They are also more likely to receive care and support much later as their conditions escalate to crisis point. In 2020 to 2021, people living in the most deprived areas of England were twice as likely to be in contact with mental health services than those living in the least deprived areas.
There are also disparities by ethnicity, age, sexuality, and sex, and for people with learning disabilities, neurodiversity, and long-term physical health conditions. Risks of mental ill-health are also higher for people who are unemployed, people in problem debt, people who have experienced displacement, including refugees and asylum seekers, people who have experienced trauma as the result of violence or abuse, children in care and care leavers, people in contact with the criminal justice system (both victims and offenders), people who sleep rough or are homeless, people with substance misuse or gambling problems, people who live alone, and unpaid carers. People may belong to several disadvantaged groups at once, which is likely to compound the risk of experiencing mental ill-health. Addressing these disparities is critical to deliver the government’s ambition to level up the country and tackle disparities in health. We will set out more detail on our plans to reduce the gap in health outcomes between different places and communities across the country in our forthcoming health disparities white paper. See Annex A below on mental health disparities for more detail, which can be used as a point of reference when responding to our questions.
The impacts of mental ill-health on individuals, communities, society and the economy are substantial. Children and young people’s mental health conditions incur annual short-term costs estimated at £1.58 billion and annual long-term costs estimated at £2.35 billion.
Around 50% of mental health conditions are established by the time a child reaches the age of 14, and 75% by age 24.
Adults with mental health conditions are much more likely to be out of work, to have lower incomes, increased problems with their physical health, and increased involvement in the criminal justice system, both as victims and perpetrators.
The total annual cost of mental ill-health in the workplace to government has been estimated at between £24 billion and £27 billion. The overall annual loss to the economy has been estimated at between £70 billion and £100 billion. Losses are greater in places and among groups that experience mental health disparities.
Health is essential to a stable and functioning economy.
Our strong economic foundation going into the pandemic and the support provided throughout means we have made good economic progress.
However, we must continue to build back better as we begin to rebuild the economy. By improving mental health across the country, we can improve lives and livelihoods whilst reducing the demand on the NHS and pressure on other public services, and at the same time supporting economic growth.
A healthier and happier population is also more likely to access employment opportunities, which will reduce inactivity and improve productivity.
Reducing disparities in mental health between local areas is therefore critical to ensuring more equal access to opportunities and supporting the government’s Levelling Up agenda.”
Natural Immunity less powerful against new Omicron strains in South Africa as Fifth Wave looms
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, May 19, 2022 – South Africa is undergoing a massive covid surge with cases jumping by 50 percent in just 24 hours on May 5th. 9,757 new cases were reported on the 5th, 3,587 more positive results than the 6,170 recorded the day before. For context, on April 5th, a month earlier 1538 new infections were recorded.
Since that 50 percent increase on May 5th daily new infections have consistently been above 2,900 reaching as high as 10,017 on May 11th. South Africa recorded over 86,000 new cases and over 550 deaths between May 5th and 16th in a time frame of less than 2 weeks.
Vaccine uptake in South Africa is below slightly above 50 percent with only 35 million fully vaccinated individuals in a population of more than 59 million.
Shabir Mahdi, a scientist leading vaccine trials in the country had suggested that natural immunity was what was helping with lower hospitalizations when omicron initially appeared in the country.
This latest increase however, is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which may be more adept at evading natural immunity.
In a study carried out by the Africa Health Research Institute blood samples from people infected with omicron but unvaccinated, when tested against BA.4 and BA.5, neutralizing antibodies which fight Covid were eight times lower. In people who contracted omicron and were vaccinated it was three times lower.
The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,”
“This may indicate that… BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new infection wave.”
That study was carried out back in January when the variants were first detected.
When the Omicron fueled fourth wave hit South Africa in 2021 cases in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe quickly followed. BA.4 and .5 have been detected in the US, Canada, China and parts of Europe.
On May 12th the BA.4 and.5 variants were both upgraded to variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control.
The ECDC says variants of concern are ones for which, “clear evidence is available indicating a significant impact on transmissibility, severity and/or immunity that is likely to have an impact on the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA.”
The possible spike in cases comes one year and five months since the first COVID jabs in the world were administered in the UK and the US, one year and four months since the first vaccine was administered in the Turks and Caicos.
Though boosters have been available in many countries worldwide booster campaigns have not been as effective as initial vaccination campaigns. Without the stretched protection of boosters many more people may remain vulnerable to this building wave of BA.4 or BA.5 vaccines.
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