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Various health experts address several questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in Tuesdays online panel discussion

On Tuesday evening a team of international health experts answered many questions from the public about the COVID-19 vaccine for almost 90 minutes via a Facebook Livestream! If you missed it, the whole event can be reviewed on the Government of Sint Maarten Facebook Page.

Three months into the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, a lot has happened. Approximately 30% of the population has been vaccinated, but 85% of all eligible persons need to be vaccinated in order to create herd immunity.

Since the start of the campaign, a lot of new developments took place. There are new COVIDd-19 strains, and travel has resumed again under certain circumstances. Additionally, a lot of new research has been done, which provides various new insights into both the COVID-19 virus and the vaccines. These new

developments, however, also bring further questions and concerns. On Sint Maarten, this seemed to be the case, too, considering the many well-prepared questions sent in, posted live, and answered by the experts.

The Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor (Ministry VSA) Omar E.C. Ottley officially opened and closed the panel discussion, and the host for the evening was Roylyka Roache from Department of Communication (DCOMM).

The guests consisted of Eva Lista-de Weever, Epidemiologist and head of Ministry VSA Collective Prevention Service (CPS), Claudette Rijff, Quality Nurse of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF), Dr. Anand Raghosing who is a general practitioner on the island, and Dr. A.J. Duits, Medical Immunologist & Director of the Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation.

After the opening remarks by the Minister of VSA Ottley, the panel discussion started with a small presentation given by Eva Lista-de Weever and Dr. Duits. Eva Lista-de Weever first gave a status update on the Vaccination Campaign. She explained the current figures, where people can come for their vaccines, and the upcoming pop-up locations. Dr. Duits gave a brief explanation of how vaccines work, the mRNA vaccines, and the safety and efficacy.

The audience was well prepared and sent in 18 very good questions in advance. Dr. Duits, being a specialist in immunology and vaccines, answered most of the technical questions. He explained why the Pfizer vaccine is currently the best one on the market with an effectiveness of 95%, which is an extremely high level of protection. This also put into context why a PCR test and wearing a mask are still required even after being fully vaccinated because there is still a very minimal chance of getting infected.

However, the good news is that in that small case that you are infected, the vaccine protects you against the severe symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, countries like Israel and Saba, which have very high vaccination numbers, show that the vaccine is an excellent tool to fight this pandemic and go back to normalcy!

Claudette Rijff, who's currently working at the Belair Community Center during the vaccination campaign, answered several questions on how people at the vaccination location experienced the situation and what the staff can do for people who are afraid of needles.

Dr. Raghosing replied to many questions from the audience to the specific medical conditions of people and comforted many by explaining that according to the latest research, we can soon expect the eligible age to reduce to 16 and that pregnant women will also become eligible for the vaccine.

Eva Lista-de Weever answered the more practical questions. She explained the procedure of different tests being conducted and explained that it is likely that we will be able to travel again in the near future when fully vaccinated.

There were almost 150 live viewers, and many were active in the comment section, with a total of 134 comments. While the event was set to end at 8:00 PM, the live viewers kept posting good questions, so it was decided to continue until 8:25 PM.

Eight questions from the live comments were answered. One of these questions was why we would naturally take the vaccine while we get natural antibodies from contracting COVID-19. Dr. Duits explained that while you do get some antibodies from natural contamination, the number of antibodies is far lower than the vaccine's protection.

Twenty-six minutes overtime, the comment section, which was very critical at the start, fell still, and the only comments that remained were compliments for the presentation and answers.

Roylyka Roache thanked the audience for their questions and the guest for their valuable information and informed the viewers and listeners that in case they forgot to answer a question, they can always send them in to the email address: vaccination@sintmaartengov.org

If you missed the event Tuesday evening, it is still available via the Government Facebook page.

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