Cayman’s medical professionals and other international health experts gathered for the 11th annual Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference on Saturday, 17 Oct.
This year, the conference took a historic shift as it was moved online in the form of a series of virtual seminars.
“Different scenarios were put forth and debated, and ultimately the consensus was that an online event is the safest method of delivering the conference,” said Health Minister Dwayne Seymour during his opening address.
The theme for this year’s conference, ‘Re-envisioning Life with a Pandemic’, focussed on topics such as myths and facts of COVID-19, strengthening mind care and the race to find a vaccine.
As of 11 Oct., there were a reported 37 million cases of COVID-19 globally, and more than 1 million people have died from the virus.
When speaking about the facts and misinformation surrounding the coronavirus, Dr. Archita Joshi-Bhatt, of Health City Cayman Islands, stressed that although only one out of every five persons who contract COVID-19 are likely to become seriously ill, there is no way of determining how it will affect each person, and at this stage “anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill”.
Another major focus of the conference was the race to find a vaccine. There are currently seven vaccines that are being developed from various universities, hospitals and medical foundations worldwide. Although normal vaccines can take well over a decade to be developed, tested and certified, COVID-19 vaccines could be ready in as little as six months.
“For [classic] vaccines, the preclinical stages take about 18 to 30 months; phase one about 30 months, phase two about 32 months, and phase three about 30 months,” said Dr. Courtney Cummings, the deputy medical director of the Health Services Authority. “… We are at phase three with many of the [COVID-19] vaccines, and it’s much, much quicker.”
Cummings attributed the drastic reduction of wait time for a successful vaccine to advancements in biological engineering, which “has allowed the various phases to be quicker now than in the past”.
A global vaccine deployment system called COVAX has been established to disperse the vaccine once it is ready, and Cayman will be able to secure its share when the time comes.
“The UK Prime Minister also announced a contribution of up to £571 miilion to COVAX,” said Governor Martyn Roper, who also spoke at Saturday’s conference. “Of this sum, £500 million will be for COVAX advance market commitment for developing countries to protect themselves.”
“As we know Cayman has signed up to the COVAX process and we also have a promise from the UK to provide Cayman with vaccines from its supplies when they are ready and safe,” added Roper.
The conference was live-streamed on the Cayman Compass Facebook page.