Lines at clinic as COVID vaccines expected to run out before next batch arrives

Scores of people line up for their COVID-19 vaccines in Camana Bay on Wednesday, 2 June. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

With prize-draw incentives, the impending expiration of Cayman’s vaccine supply, and the likelihood of mandatory vaccinations for work-permit holders, residents are continuing to line up for their Pfizer-BioNTech shots, which are expected to run out soon.

The Public Health Department, in a statement issued today, said that the current supply of vaccines will be entirely used up within the coming days. This means some people who are due to get their second dose before the next batch of vaccines arrives on 16 June will not be able to get them.

Health officials said those individuals awaiting their second dose “should not be concerned” as they will be given priority when the next batch arrives, with dedicated clinics on 17, 18 and 19 June.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez noted in the statement, “There is also now evidence that a longer gap between the first and second dose produces a better immune response. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine can be given within three and twelve weeks after the first dose. Please rest assured that anyone due for their second dose will have an opportunity to get it once the next batch of vaccines arrive mid-June.”

69% vaccinated with at least one dose

As of 2 June, 44,691 people – or 69% of the estimated 65,000 total population – had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 37,470 – or 58% – who had been vaccinated at the start of the government’ ‘Vaccination Challenge’ on 8 May. The percentage of people who are now fully vaccinated with both doses is 59%.

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An earlier slowdown in the uptake of vaccinations led to concerns that Cayman would not use up its supply of vaccines before they expired, and the government last month launched a ramped-up vaccination drive. Those getting their first vaccines between 8 May and 9 June have a chance to win prizes, including airline tickets, staycations, jewellery, gift vouchers and dinner packages, among others.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association and R3 Cayman Foundation have also launched a raffle, with the grand prize being $10,000 in cash, plus other prizes, worth a total of $15,000, including tourism-related products and services.

Governor Martyn Roper, speaking on the Cayman Compass show The Resh Hour on Wednesday evening, 2 June, said more than 1,000 people had taken the vaccine on Tuesday this week, with about half of those getting their first doses.

He said proposals to make vaccinations mandatory for expat workers who are renewing their work permits or getting new ones may be leading to some people getting inoculated now, while public and private sector prize draws may also be major incentives for deciding to get the shots.

He added that people’s desire to travel was also impacting the vaccination take-up. “People recognise that when we are able to travel more freely, you’re going to have to have the vaccine to be able to travel without restriction,” he said.

In recent weeks, Cayman’s Public Health Department has been bringing the vaccines to the people, offering more options for where the vaccines are being administered.

Up until last month, the vast majority of shots were given at the Owen Roberts International Airport, where part of the check-in hall has been converted into a vaccination clinic.

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On selected dates this month, vaccines will be available at Camana Bay; the Barcam Service Station on the East-West Arterial, near Lantern Point; Bodden Town Public Beach; East End Public Beach; and Sir John A Cumber Primary School Hall in West Bay.

Also, Cayman Brac will have a vaccination clinic on Saturday, 5 June, at the Aston Rutty Centre from 9am to noon, for people to receive either their first or second dose.

Awaiting approval for vaccines for 12-15 year olds

The vaccines are currently only available to people aged 16 and over.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which have been provided for free to Cayman by the British government, has been approved by several countries for use by those aged 12-15. However, so far, UK health authorities have not given their approval.

Roper said Cayman had been working hard to get agreement from the UK to vaccinate 12-15 year olds here.

“We are just waiting for the UK regulator to confirm it,” he said. “I’ve been told we can expect that very soon. And that’s really important, because if we want to get the maximum number of people vaccinated, being able to vaccinate 12-15 year olds will be hugely beneficial to our overall vaccine take-up.”

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