The pace of vaccinations in the Cayman Islands has slowed down considerably, since a new batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived on island on 16 June.
The vaccination effort was halted for about two weeks last month before first-time vaccinations recommenced on 17 June.
In the first three weeks since then, the weekly averages of people receiving their first jab have dropped to only 1,201, 231 and 449 respectively.
The typical weekly average before the break was more than 2,000 people and reached a peak of almost 5,000 in March.
Cayman’s reopening plan calls for a rate of 80% to enter phase 3, when a limited number of tourists will be allowed to visit. The planned start of phase 3 is 9 Sept.
Phase 4, when securely verifiable vaccinated travellers no longer have to quarantine, is set to start on 14 Oct.
Cayman’s one-dose vaccination rate has hovered below the 69%-mark for the past two weeks, while the share of fully vaccinated residents increased from 63% to 64.2%.
If the weekly average of the period since 17 June can be maintained, it would take another 13 weeks, until 8 Oct., to reach the threshold of 80% of the population for first-time vaccinations. But it would take at least another three to four weeks for everyone to get a second jab, to be fully inoculated against the virus.
This would also require that everyone who had a first dose will get their second vaccine shot. Currently, more than 1,600 people have not completed the full inoculation three weeks after their first appointment, delaying the process further.
It is also questionable whether the current average can be maintained given the continuous slowing of the vaccination pace.
If last week’s average was setting the pace for future inoculations, it would take almost 20 weeks, until December, to have 80% of the 71,100 residents fully vaccinated.
This means the phase 3 deadline will almost certainly be missed without a renewed vaccination drive, if the threshold can be reached at all.
During the past two weeks, the share of first-time vaccinated increased the most among the youngest age group of 12-to-18 year olds, followed by the 30-to-40 year old cohort.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Premier Wayne Panton reiterated that government’s phased reopening plan is largely based on the vaccination numbers.
“We have a plan to reopen our borders but nothing we come up with will work safely unless everyone in the Cayman Islands who is capable of taking the Covid vaccine takes it,” he said.
“We must realise the goal of vaccinating 80% of our population and we will continue to use the population figure of 71,100.”
Panton said the vaccination rate is a topic he will continue to re-emphasize until the threshold is reached.
“I am begging everyone in this country who have not yet taken the vaccine – not from a position of weakness but from a position of concern for the health of the country – to help us reach our goal,” he said.
“We cannot remain closed to the outside world forever. We have to let people come back into our country.”