SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Covid-19 vaccines are expected to arrive on St. Maarten soon. The objective is to create herd immunity, which requires 70% of the population to be vaccinated, before the upcoming hurricane season.
Organizing a campaign on this scale with very demanding safety, efficiency, and logistical requirements is a huge operation. The Vaccination Task Force has been working day and night for the past couple of months to make sure everything is up to par when the vaccines arrive.
On Wednesday, concrete plans were shared with the public via an SMS (Short Message Service) blast with a link to the government vaccination information page, and it was also further explained in the panel discussion on Thursday evening.
From the many incoming questions, it was clear that there was a high demand for information.
The Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor (Ministry VSA) Richard J.J. Panneflek, officially opened and closed the panel discussion, and the host for the evening was Roylyka Roache from the Department of Communication (DCOMM).
The guests consisted of Eva Lista-de Weever, Epidemiologist, and head of Ministry of VSA Collective Prevention Services (CPS); Bregje Boetekees, Manager of Operations of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF); Dr. Anand Raghosing, a resident general practitioner; and Dr. A.J. Duits, Medical Immunologist and Director of the Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation.
After the opening remarks by the Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor, the livestream started with a small presentation given by Eva Lista-de Weever and Dr. Duits. Dr. Duits explained how vaccines work, how they are developed, but also shared some of the first results of the effect of the vaccine in Israel.
He also brought forward hard scientific data about the rarity of extreme side effects and safety to address those concerns amongst the population. After this segment, Eva Lista-de Weever took over and informed about the rollout strategy regarding location, priority groups, procedure, and registration.
The public was clearly well prepared and sent in 25 questions in advance via an email address that was promoted several days earlier. Dr. Duits, being a specialist when it comes to immunology and vaccines started off and answered the first questions.
Dr. Duits went into detail explaining how the mRNA vaccine is not able to change your DNA and explained what ingredients are part of the vaccine.
Bregje Boetekees provided much-needed nuance to several media articles that are circulating. One being from Norway where was claimed that several elderly people passed away after receiving the vaccine, while in fact there was no actual link found between these deaths and the vaccine.
In an elderly home with seniors of very high age, with a very fragile health status, the passing away of persons is unfortunately not uncommon. However, in this article, these deaths were linked to the vaccine, while the number of people passing away wasn’t any higher than normal.
Boetekees then continued to mention that for the elderly people living at the White & Yellow Cross, who are very fragile, each case will be personally reviewed to see if the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks of getting infected with Covid-19.
Dr. Raghosing replied to many questions from the livestream audience to the specific medical situations of people and comforted many by explaining that there are actually very few absolute contra-indications.
The more practical questions were answered by Eva Lista-de Weever with respect to how to register, how many doses will we receive, how is it stored, when will it commence, etc.
There were almost 400 livestream viewers, and many were active in the comment section with a total of 343 comments. While the event was planned to end at 8.00 PM, the livestream viewers kept posting good questions, so it was decided to keep on going until well after 8:30 PM. A total of 24 questions from the live comments were answered. One of these questions was: how many in this panel would take the vaccine. All panelists including the honorable minister replied positively to this question and ensured the public that they will lead by example and take the vaccine.
If you missed the event Thursday evening, it will still be available via the Government Facebook Page, and it will be replayed on Cable TV Channel 115 on Friday at 10.30 AM and again at 6.30 PM.