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St Vincent’s PM urges citizens to take COVID vaccine


St Vincent’s PM urges citizens to take COVID vaccine
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves interacting with children who had to evacuate their homes at the Thomas Saunders Secondary School in Kingstown, which has been turned into an emergency shelter. (Picture by Clare Keizer)

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St Vincent & The Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves made an impassioned plea for citizens of the country to take the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

This followed a report from chief medical officer Simone Keizer-Beache that SVG recorded 14 new positive cases from 34 samples received and tested on Sunday in the midst of the country grappling with the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano.

“I am deeply concerned about a possible spiral of COVID-19 cases at this time,” Gonsalves said during a radio show.

“I want to urge persons again, please take the vaccine. It’s available, it’s safe and it will help us get over this problem during the volcanic eruption easier and better, and we will get back on a more normal road thereafter.”

Health authorities said all of the new cases were contacts of known COVID-19 positive cases and no new recoveries were recorded over the reporting period.

There have been 1 806 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in SVG since March last year with 1 665 recoveries, currently 131 active cases and ten deaths reported from the viral illness.

Keizer-Beache said if more people got vaccinated it would prevent the country from experiencing a “disaster within a disaster”.

“A disaster is when something gets out of control,” she said. “We have an opportunity now to prevent a major outbreak in facilities and communities because persons in the shelters will go into communities and interact.

“If for now, we are not picking up any cases in the shelters, once it exists in the community, it is a major risk for us having a big flare-up of COVID-19.”

She added: “In the [shelters], we have been doing rapid antigen tests and we have not picked up any positive cases as yet.

“We have vaccinated a few people between six and a maximum of eight, but we continue to encourage people, especially with what we are seeing in the community now in places where people have been evacuated to.”

Kenzie-Beache said she was concerned about a spike in cases over the past few weeks, coming from the South Leeward section of the mainland St Vincent.

But she cautioned Dr Gonsalves about working with local hotels to accept some of the most vulnerable members of the population, including expectant mothers, the elderly and the disabled, to ease concerns.

“It will be difficult for us to do this because we will have to do continuous testing,” she said. “You may test today, and the result comes back, and you may be positive tomorrow.

“I would prefer we identify some other shelters or some better accommodation for those people . . . . Some people have been so adamant that they will not be vaccinated and some of them are in the worse situation of needing [help].”

Keizer-Beache said the general public healthcare system was facing challenges, but they were coping for the most part, urging asthma patients in particular to seek medical advice as soon as possible to help them get through the situation of the constant ash fall from the La Soufriere volcano.