By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
ABOUT 20,000 persons today are fully vaccinated in Grand Bahama, but there is a concern over the significant drop-off in COVID-19 vaccinations recently on the island.
Dr Freeman Lockhart, Medical Chief of staff at the Grand Bahama Health Services, said that the number of persons vaccinated is reasonable given the population of 45,000.
However, he stressed that many still are not coming forward to be vaccinated.
According to statistics provided by Dr Lockhart, 9,000 persons have received the second dose of Astra Zeneca vaccine; 7,000 received the second dose of Pfizer; and 2,200 the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.
“So, we have about 20,000 persons in Grand Bahama who are fully vaccinated,” he said.
Dr Lockhart stated that the drop-off in vaccinations is experienced not only in The Bahamas, but globally. There is a concern, he said, about a possible fourth surge in COVID-19 infections worldwide.
He said this is the case because people have returned to pre-COVID behaviour and activity.
Driving around the island, he stated that healthcare providers are witnessing large gatherings of persons who are not adhering to public health guidelines.
“At the fish fry, the numbers there are huge, and very few persons are wearing masks, and no one is social distancing,” Dr Lockhart said.
“On this island, there is always a feeling among us as health care providers that there is likely to be another surge from COVID-19, given the behaviour we are seeing...because persons are dropping their guard.”
Dr Lockhart stressed that COVID is still among us in Grand Bahama. He stated that unvaccinated persons are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and dying.
He said they are now moving from the single vaccination centre, particularly at the Susan J Wallace Centre, and going out into the various communities by mobile vaccination unit.
“The numbers have dropped off so much to the point where we pretty much take the vaccines to the masses,” the hospital official said.
The mobile vaccination unit has travelled into West End, Eight Mile Rock, and East End. And there are plans to go to all the industrial facilities in Freeport, according to Dr Lockhart.
“One of the reasons for that is because persons are just not taking advantage of stepping forward to be vaccinated.
“We have seen a huge drop in the numbers of persons receiving the vaccine. What is so fascinating is that a lot of persons seem to have difficulty making up their mind.”
Dr Lockhart said when there was only the Astra Zeneca, the argument was that there were not enough options available.
“Whatever the reason, persons are just not stepping forward,” Dr Lockhart said.
Like other vaccines, he explained that the COVID vaccine is no different and does not prevent people from getting the infection.
“Being vaccinated for COVID does not prevent you from getting COVID. It reduces the symptoms and the chances of you ending up in the hospital,” said Dr Lockhart.
“Yes, we have had patients who have been vaccinated who have ended up in hospital. They developed COVID, tested positive for COVID, and became symptomatic. But by and large from our statistics, none of them have died; none of these patients have gone on a ventilator; all of those patients were discharged.
“So, that is what we are trying to drive as it relates to the COVID vaccine. That is what we are trying to convince a lot of the persons who are dragging their feet about it,” he said.
Dr Lockhart said vaccination is still the best treatment available.
“Even now today we still don’t have a good handle or outcome for persons winding up in the hospital, and especially persons who wind up in hospital in ICU intubated. Our track record here in Grand Bahama is extremely poor as it relates to persons who wind up on a ventilator. That is why vaccinations remain the buzzword as it relates to the management of COVID-19,” he said.
He urged people to observe public health guidelines by wearing masks, social distancing and sanitising.
“I encourage you to reach out to your neighbours and churches and schools and friends and encourage them to get vaccinated because even though the vaccine is not a cure, it is the best tool in the toolbox to fight against COVID,” he said.