Local seniors, some using wheelchairs and walkers, were among hundreds of people heading to the Cayman Islands Hospital Friday as they responded to government’s call to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
By the end of the day just over 1,000 people, a mix of seniors, healthcare workers and those with underlying health conditions, had been inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Acting Health Services Authority chief executive officer Hazel Brown welcomed the response to the national vaccination programme.
“We are tremendously pleased with the turnout,” she told the Cayman Compass as the lines mounted around the HSA flu clinic Friday lunchtime.
“We are very, very happy with the uptake of the vaccine and we’re asking everyone to just come out, get your vaccine; the quicker we can get this vaccine out to the population, the quicker we can open our borders.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, in his COVID-19 results report Friday evening, said 1076 people were vaccinated since the campaign started, including 310 on Thursday. Meanwhile there were no new cases in the latest batch of 199 PCR tests.
Friday’s exercise followed the formal launch of the national vaccination programme Thursday morning when Premier Alden McLaughlin, Governor Martyn Roper and Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee received their initial jabs.
Brown said the process so far has been going well.
She said only three out of the roughly 710 people who had been vaccinated by early Friday afternoon had reported feeling immediate side-effects from the jab.
“Someone felt a little bit flushed. Someone had a little bit of numbness in the arm and someone had a minor allergic reaction,” she explained, adding that those responses were temporary and did not require medical attention.
Prospect resident Patricia Ebanks, 72, was among those rolling up their sleeves to take the jab Friday morning.
She said the process went smoothly and welcomed the opportunity to get vaccinated.
“I didn’t feel anything more than a little stick and then it was over and then they asked me to wait. I think it was… 10 or 15 minutes, but I waited it out. I have no reaction at all. I feel absolutely no different,” she said.
Ebanks said she had confidence in the vaccine and will be taking her second shot on 29 Jan.
“I’ve heard no reports that would discourage me [from getting the shot] and all the reasons in the world, why I should be vaccinated. Hopefully everybody will take advantage of this. And, as the government says, if 70% of us get vaccinated then we have what is called herd immunity,” she said.
Vaccination process gets thumbs-up
Barbara Hollingworth, 84, said she had no problems getting her inoculation.
“I think it was fine. We all stood in the line. It was very orderly, extremely courteous. It couldn’t be better,” she said.
Dominic Dyer, receptionist and patient service coordinator at Align wellness studio, was among private healthcare workers taking the jab Friday.
He said he was nervous about the vaccination as he does not like needles or getting blood work done.
“I was definitely a little bit anxious in the lead up to it, but I went … all the nurses were so helpful. They showed you everything would be fine and didn’t feel a thing. I looked away and before I knew [it], I was out of the room. [It] was a very easy experience,” he said.
Dyer, who is also a student, said although he worked part-time at Align he felt it was necessary to take the vaccine.
“Interacting with hundreds of patients on a weekly basis, I felt like I should go as someone, I guess, on the front line… I thought I’d make the most of the opportunity… and be one of the first to get it,” he said.
Addressing concerns in some quarters about the vaccine, Dyer said he believed people have no reason to be sceptical.
“We should trust the science. The reason why this vaccine has been able to be approved so quickly is because everyone has put their focus towards it. Millions of dollars of funding thrown at it. So I just trust the scientists. It was encouraging to see so many other people in the medical profession… lots of doctors there and… they are the experts so if they’re willing to take it, why should other people be sceptical?” he said.
Brown said while the HSA is using an alphabet system for people to get the vaccine she encouraged anyone over 70 who wanted to get inoculated to do so.
She said she also took the vaccine and had no issues.
“It’s been fine… very, very minor soreness at the site as we have with all vaccines,” she said.
Tour bus operator Brian Barnes, who has been transporting returning travellers, also got his jab.
He said he spent an hour in line waiting Friday morning to get his vaccination, but he did not mind as the process when smoothly once he got inside the clinic.
“I was quite surprised when I got there at 10 for a 10:30am start… There must have been about 100 people in front of me alone and when I came back out it was a lot more,” he said.