Panton: COVID now a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’

Sticks to 80% vaccination target

Premier Wayne Panton. - Photo: Courtesy of CIG TV

COVID-19 is fast becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, Premier Wayne Panton said Wednesday as he urged everyone that had yet to be immunised to get the jab.

Panton spoke out against a “wave of misinformation, selfish behaviour and apathy” surrounding the vaccine which he said was placing the country at risk.

Sticking to his guns over government’s reopening plan, which is contingent on hitting a target of vaccinating 80% of the population, he said he was not prepared to take chances with people’s health.

Speaking directly to those who are eligible to get the shot but have not yet been immunised, he said, “I am once again asking you to roll up your sleeve. It’s not just about you. It’s about our community and the interests of our country.”

Opening too soon risks harming the economy as well as the health of the most vulnerable, including those who cannot yet be vaccinated, Panton said in an address to Parliament.

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Highlighting the situation in the British Virgin Islands – a sister Overseas Territory that over the past few weeks has seen 22 deaths and more than 30 hospitalisations as COVID cases rocketed from zero to more than 2,000 – he said the virus was almost exclusively impacting those who had not been vaccinated.

Only one person who had the vaccine needed hospital treatment so far in the BVI outbreak, Panton said. “The world over it is clear that this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he added.

Addressing criticism that government’s reopening plan is too cautious, Panton highlighted the measures taken in BVI, including allowing vaccinated travellers to enter the country with few restrictions and reducing quarantine to seven days for those that had not been immunised. He said those steps had not worked and the island is now facing new restrictions.

Government members, from left, Isaac Rankine, André Ebanks, Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, Chris Saunders and Kenneth Bryan show off their vaccinations shortly after the election. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

“I do not want our country to suffer the loss of people we know and love, then have to go back to lockdowns, curfews and harsh restrictions,” he added.

He also highlighted the possible consequences of ‘Freedom Day’ in the UK, which lifted all COVID restrictions this week, amid the condemnation of many scientists who fear a new outbreak.

“Let us see just how high the infection rates soar now that people have been given the freedom to be irresponsible,” he added.

Panton acknowledged Cayman may have to live with some level of COVID-19 in the community at some point.

Vaccination passports

And he hinted that vaccination passports could be among the measures used to keep people safe if the virus returns to these shores.

Citing a policy in France that requires a health pass to enter venues such as cinemas, bars, restaurants and public transportation, he said government would consider such measures if it had to.

“If we do not, collectively, do the right thing and get vaccinated I can assure you that this government will be prepared to take all of the measures we need to – some may call them draconian – to protect every single living soul in these islands.”

To those that have labelled the COVID-19 vaccines – now administered in full to more than a billion people, or nearly 15% of the world’s population – as an experiment, he said the “real experiment” was being conducted by countries that had attempted to open their borders too soon without protecting the most vulnerable.

“We estimate our population to be 71,106 and we are taking Public Health England’s advice to get 80% of our population vaccinated,” he added.

“So far only 66% of our population has had the two-dose course of the vaccine. That is to be celebrated, but at the same time we know it’s not sufficient. We can and must do better.”

Panton acknowledged that opening Cayman’s borders was an economic necessity. But with COVID-19 likely to be a part of the global picture for some time, he said government  would  “exercise wisdom” and “be guided by the science” as it looked to unlock safely.

He urged the Opposition, which has proposed a 1 Sept. reopening, to back his government’s plans and “avoid the slippery slope of making political hay with a rapidly evolving public health issue”.

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  1. I appreciate Premier Panton’s passion and don’t disagree with his intentions. Still, it’s inverted to limit those who vaccinated because of those who will not. You can not protect those who refuse protection. Setting the unobtainable is not a goal. It’s self-inflicted failure which leads to degraded trust. For this, a vaccine does not exist.

  2. You are clearly unmovable at your 80% which is 94% of the eligible population. I wish you luck. If you succeed you will be the first (and probably only) place on the planet to reach those numbers.

  3. With highly effective vaccines readily available to all Caymanians, Panton would not risk public health to follow outlined plan regardless of achieving the 80% threshold. Those choosing to NOT take the jab risk their own health. Panton has a responsibility to ALL Caymanians and all property and business owners who participate in good faith in the economy. It is absolutely non-sensical to allow a minority to force their self-interest on the majority. In effect the deliberately unvaccinated are holding the country hostage and beyond making good vaccine available to all Caymanians, Panton must now focus his efforts to well-being of all. Those choosing not to vaccinate are deliberately risking the health and well-being of all Caymanians and for them to argue the borders must remain closed for health safety now is disingenuous.

  4. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Government initially took steps through lockdowns to protect the population, then they order vaccines and provided for free. Now the 66% of us that are vaccinated are being held hostage by the 34% that won’t get vaccinated. At some point government has to step aside and allow what happens to happen, even God knows you have to allow free will and let folks suffer the benefit or consequences. Does PM Paton think he is smarter than God?

  5. Panton is doing the right thing, it’s great to have a politician who puts people’s health first and not give in to business who want tourism dollars. Look at what’s happening in the USA, they’ve seen a 500% increase in COVID-19 Delta-variant cases in the last 2 weeks. 99% of new ICU admissions are people who are not vaccinated. Next I hope he makes vaccinations for work permit renewals mandatory immediately. They can choose to get it, or leave the island if they don’t want it. So, they are not being forced to take it, they are being given the choice of staying to work, or not staying — up to them. Those who feel that strongly about not being vaccinated will leave. But this is the next step Panton must take.

  6. You cannot force people to get an injection they do not want. They have to respect the decision of each individual. The government cannot guarantee how this injection will behave for each individual receiving it and if someone is to have an injury, they will not be held liable.

  7. So the PM is going to make everyone who was responsible and got the vaccine suffer because of the ones who are irresponsible and will not get the vaccine. He just said everyone hospitalized did not have the vaccine. He can safely open the country NOW to those who are vaccinated. Also I understand there are not enough flights to let people in or out of the country.

    • The PM is following the same Klaus Schwab Great Reset playbook as other “leaders” of the once-free Western world. The narrative is shifting to demonize the unvaxxed, make them the reason for continued medical tyranny, and get the vaxxed to happily accept a health passport for everyday life while also snitching on the hold outs.

  8. Vaccinated ppl can spread the virus as we are seeing and understood from the start. The vaccine is a purely selfish option which only helps the individual who gets vaccinated, well tell that to the 12,000 + ppl who have died from it in the USA alone. So imploring us, who won’t be vaccinated with emotional arguments such as “doing our duty” or “saving our grandma” doesn’t work because those arguments make no sense. If I get sick from Covid because I did not get a vaccine is a personal choice as the data is showing, you are just as likely to spread the virus as a vaccinated person as you are as a unvaccinated person, you are just slightly less likely to get symptoms. No scientific reason to hold us all captive in Cayman or segregate us in society. We can make our own health choices and bear the consequences. I’ll take my 99 % chance of living with the virus as an unvaxxed person. Thanks

  9. If this is his stance and he won’t budge, then mandates and requirements to incentive vaccination (job requirements for work permit holders and any first responder/health care professional with direct patient contact) + disincentivizing holding out (can’t go to places such as events, restaurants, movies, sporting events, etc like they are doing in France and the UK) will have to happen quickly. If they want to proceed with 9th September phase 3 step, then 10,000+ people need to get their first vaccine by 5th August to be fully vaxxed.

    What is being done to meet this? I did my part. Government, you now need to do yours.

  10. Respectfully – getting the CIG to listen to reason is only half your problem. Americans represent somewhere between 90%-95% of CI’s tourism. The other half of your problem is so long as the CIG believes that Americans vaccination cards are forgeries and will require Americans to quarantine you will not have any tourism. Only opening up will be meaningless.