The big caveat looming over Cayman’s border reopening plan is government’s vaccination target of 80%.
All future elements of the 5-phase plan, including the elimination of quarantine periods, are contingent on meeting that objective first.
Premier Wayne Panton expressed optimism at the Chamber luncheon on Thursday, saying “we are very close” to reaching the 80% level.
It is based on what UK health authorities estimate will be the minimum threshold needed to reach ‘herd immunity’, a term for the effective resistance of a population to the spread of an infectious disease because most people are immune from either a previous infection or vaccination.
However, estimates vary and it is possible that, with the advent of more contagious variants of COVID-19, the required immunity level is higher.
At the same time, Cayman’s vaccination target appears to be a significant challenge, considering that children under the age of 12 cannot be inoculated.
60,800 people can be vaccinated; 56,880 must be, to reach 80%
Government recently revised its population estimate to 71,100, but the number of people of vaccination age is not clear.
In a press conference in June, Panton said government had asked the Economics and Statistics Office to recalculate Cayman’s population – which had been pegged at 65,000 – in the absence of up-to-date census numbers.
Using data from the 2010 census, to ascertain the proportion of the population over 12 years old and thus eligible to receive the vaccine, the numbers show that approximately 14.5% of the population, at that time, was younger than 12 years.
If we apply the same ratio to today’s estimated population, there are about 60,800 children and adults who can be vaccinated.
This is not much more than government’s target of inoculating 80% of the entire population or 56,880 people.
In other words, if those estimates are correct, 93.5% of residents who can be vaccinated, must be fully protected, to reach the ‘herd immunity’ target.
Even if we assume that Cayman’s population make-up in terms of age groups has changed over the last 11 years, with the influx of relatively more adult workers, it is reasonable to assume the islands would have to vaccinate more than 90% of residents of 12 years and older.
Currently, not even the age cohort of over 60 year-olds, who have been able to receive the vaccine since January, has reached that level. About 88% of people in this age group have partial immunity, according to data released by the Health Services Authority on 29 June.
Yet, Cayman’s vaccination rates are anything but low. More than 80% of residents over the age of 40 have received at least one jab.
Like in other countries, younger people are trailing in the take-up of the vaccine, but they also had much later access to it. Only about one third of 12-to-18 year olds has received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while in the age cohort of 18-to-30 years, 68% had one shot.
Overall, 48,722 or 69% of the population are at least partially protected and 64% have been fully vaccinated.
To reach 80%, another 8,150 people will have to come forward and get their jabs.