Earlier this month, the ministry received 4,680 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the United Kingdom and more are expected to become available in January.
Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Ronald Georges said the Oxford University in the UK carried out a large trial to determine which vaccines would be most effective as booster doses and results revealed vaccines such as Pfizer, which has mRNA technology, would be best.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that to trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, mRNA vaccines use molecules created in a laboratory to teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.
“The findings [from Oxford University’s study] were that the mRNA vaccines give the best overall increase in neutralising antibodies and immunity as a booster vaccine. Pfizer vaccine, an mRNA vaccine was then chosen as the easier vaccine to supply to the territories,” Dr Georges said.
The acting CMO also said persons who are fully vaccinated with any of the other World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines are eligible to receive the Pfizer booster shots when it is necessary.
“Persons who have completed their primary vaccination with either a two-dose regimen like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, or Sinovac or a one-dose regimen (Johnson and Johnson) can receive a booster of the Pfizer vaccine three months after completion of their last dose. A booster dose simply provides a recent stimulus to the immune system to boost the levels of neutralising antibodies and cellular immunity to COVID,” Dr Georges mentioned.
“Persons who are severely immune-compromised, e.g. those on chemotherapy, or on high doses of steroid, or on other immune-suppressive therapy may be eligible for a third dose which can be Pfizer as well as a booster dose three months after to ensure that they sustain sufficient immune protection,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Georges said the main tools of control and suppression by the government in the past have been curfews, business restrictions and lockdowns.
However, he noted that government’s policy has moved past these drastic measures as vaccination rates have increased to more than 60 percent.
Nonetheless, the acting CMO is urging more people to get vaccinated and for those eligible to get their booster shots. He said the Ministry of Health is monitoring the Omicron variant which is not currently in the territory but has been identified in the region.
Dr Georges also noted the current surges in cases is a result of the Delta variant as 23 samples returned a positive result for the mentioned variant.
“They (the government) have put in place entry quarantine restrictions, a system in place to isolate positive cases, and has made the necessary provisions for cases requiring clinical care at the Dr D Orlando Smith Hospital. With these provisions, the government has shifted its strategy to requiring persons to take personal responsibility while allowing economic and social activity to carry on,” Dr Georges explained.
The last update on Christmas Eve showed there were 143 active cases in the Virgin Islands with 133 on Tortola and the remaining 10 on Virgin Gorda.