Trinidad: Citizens urged to still get COVID-19 vaccines

PORT OF SPAIN – Trinidad and Tobago health authorities Wednesday urged citizens to continue to get vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic even as they acknowledged that the hospital occupancy rate in the parallel healthcare system is on a decline.

“Vaccination is a proven method of preventing COVID-19, and it’s also a proven method of reducing the spread and transmission of COVID-19 and the severity of COVID-19,” Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards told the weekly Ministry of Health news conference.

“And when you vaccinate you protect your close and elderly relatives, and all those persons who may contract COVID-19 but who cannot be vaccinated at this point in time, and have the risk of being admitted into a hospital or ICU facility,” she said, adding that persons who seek early medical attention are more likely to have a positive outcome and survive the virus with less complications.

According to health officials the hospital occupancy rate is 22 per cent, representing 140 patients in hospital across the parallel healthcare system in Trinidad and Tobago.

Epidemiologist, Dr. Avery Hinds told reporters that the country continues to record a decrease in COVID-19 cases with an average of 240 infections a day.

He said despite this, Trinidad and Tobago seems to have plateaued or “fallen off” in terms of vaccination rates and that cumulative vaccination coverage has fallen.

“So, we are still at that just over 50 per cent level and we are attempting to have the paediatric population get itself covered to the greatest extent possible to reduce risks there,” he said.

Chief Medical officer, Dr Roshan Parasaram said so far 1, 376 children between the ages five to 11 years have received a vaccine while 677 between the ages 12 to 18 years have received booster shots.

Latest figures show that since March 2020, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 3 967 deaths and 165 121 infections and Dr Abdool-Richards said “we have noted a significant decline in the occupancy in the parallel healthcare system from February 18 onwards. This is a promising sign because it has been a consistent trend”.

She told reporters that the occupancy level at the Intensive Care Units (ICU) has always been one of concern because it represents the patients who are at highest risk of having an adverse event.

“We have a low ICU occupancy throughout. In fact, this morning the ICU occupancy is at 14 per cent, representing nine patients; seven in Trinidad and two in Tobago. Our ward level occupancy, which represents the less critically ill patients but those who still require medical care and have high risk factors, is at 23 per cent,” she said, adding “so overall we have noticed positive trends in the parallel healthcare system”.

The said that the health authorities have also recorded a decline in persons attending the Accident and Emergency departments, which are the first point of contact for persons in the parallel healthcare system.

“Again, from February onwards we have noticed and identified a decrease in the number of patients who are at the Accident and Emergency departments.

“We also consider the ambulance service because this is an indicator regarding the transfer of patients. This morning eight per cent of all ambulances that are on the fleet, which is 37 at peak, are being used for COVID-19 transport.

“And it’s in stark contrast to the situation that we would have noticed from April to June of last year, and then from October to January of this year, when we would have seen up to 80 per cent of the ambulance service on certain days.”

But Dr. Abdool-Richards said the current COVID-19 situation in Trinidad and Tobago is a far cry from the situation it would have been faced with between October, and especially on December 23 and 26, and on November 26.

“On those days the parallel healthcare system was at 83 per cent occupancy and our A&Es had a significant number of patients and were being stretched. Our ICU level occupancy was approximately 85 to 95 per cent.

“We know that we have had an increase in herd immunity which accounts for the decrease number of hospitalisation, and we also note the decrease virulence of the Omicron variant,” she said, noting that despite the positive trends being experienced there are still some caveats and warnings people should take note of. (CMC)

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