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WYCCF Quality Nurse Claudette Rijff receives first COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

On Monday morning February 22, the first COVID-19 vaccine inoculations took place, a very important step in heading into a post-COVID-19 era.

The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) at St. John’s Estate, was the place where the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country took place. The event which was live streamed via the Government of Sint Maarten Facebook page, started out by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs officially launching the vaccination campaign.

In her opening remarks, the Prime Minister mentioned the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the community which started almost a year ago. The loss of loved ones as well as the harsh financial impact on the national economy were some of the key areas that the Prime Minister point out.

Jacobs added how the country has been looking forward to the day that the vaccine would become available and that day is finally here, the day that the Government commences with phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan.

Acting Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor (Ministry VSA), Ludmila de Weever, addressed in her opening remarks on behalf of Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, that Monday marked a special milestone for the country.

Minister De Weever added that Sint Maarten is now one of the countries in the world, privileged to have COVID-19 vaccines, which is a step in the right direction for public health. The organization of this operation wasn’t easy, Minister De Weever pointed out, and thanked, Minister Panneflek, the Collective Prevention Service (CPS), the Department of Public Health, Pharmacies, stakeholders, General Practitioners, the vaccine management team, workstream officers, and their support staff who contributed their expertise, time, and energy to this operation.

Minister De Weever also last but not least, thanked the Netherlands for providing the vaccines to Sint Maarten.

The manager of operations, of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF), Bregje Boetekees welcomed everyone to the WYCCF and mentioned that it was an honor to have the first vaccine on the island given to one of their dedicated nurses.

WYCCF Quality Nurse, Claudette Rijff, was the first one to receive the vaccine. The vaccine was administered live, while Bregje Boetekees explained the vaccination procedure. Nurse Claudette mentioned that she felt fine and was honored to be the first on the island to receive the vaccine. She said she was proud to be

part of the solution to be able to pave the way for others: “I take it to protect you, now you take it to protect someone else’’.

Working in the COVID-19-unit, allowed her to see and experience the effect of the COVID-19 virus on vulnerable clients. I take the vaccine because I want to protect my clients, co-workers, and community, Claudette said. She also mentioned that initially, she was a bit doubtful of taking the vaccine too. Though after she did her research and got convinced that it’s safe and decided that she wants to make a difference. We want things to go back to normal, and the economy to recover, so I would advise everyone to come together and do the right thing, because we are stronger together, Claudette pointed out.

Bregje Boetekees continued by saying that after the live feed, the vaccination at the WYCCF will commence for clients and healthcare workers with direct client contact. In the elderly care unit, where they felt the impact of COVID-19, like no one else, a whopping 86% signed up to receive the vaccine.

Boetekees mentioned that for some it has almost been a year, since they last hugged or kissed their children or grandchildren or attended a church service or family gathering. These clients know, like no other, that this vaccine is a lifesaver. She then referred to the incredibly positive results in Israel, where there is a tremendous decline in infections and hospitalizations under the vaccinated population.

This shows that the vaccine is effective, though enough people need to take the vaccine to accomplish this. “So, I urge you, to sign up today’’. “Because if we all sign up and take the vaccine, it will not be a small step towards normalcy, it will be a giant leap.”

CPS Head, Eva Lista-de Weever then remarked that she felt honored to be part of this national accomplishment and hoped that everyone will join her in registering for the vaccine. Either via the online link (which will soon be made available in different languages) or via the paperback form which can be picked up at several locations, including CPS, Doctors’ offices, the Government Administration Building, and select pharmacies.

Completed forms can be dropped off at the CPS. In her closing remarks, she said that she will be taking the vaccine this week and motivates others to do the same. “Sint Maarten let us do our part to reduce COVID-19. Together, we are protected.’’

Acting Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor De Weever, concluded by congratulating everyone involved in this process, and encouraged everyone that this is the safest way for the country. The vaccine is safe, free of charge, and cannot change your DNA. It will be available to everyone who currently resides on the Dutch side, and no immigration checks will be done, and your information will be handled confidentially, so please register, and protect our island, the minister said on Monday.

Lastly, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs closed off by saying that we are very fortunate to have received the vaccine, as many countries much bigger than Sint Maarten have not. This is the largest rollout drive of vaccines that Sint Maarten has ever seen before and we will all get the opportunity to receive the vaccine.

''I for one will definitely get vaccinated when it is my turn, and I encourage each and every one of you to do the same and register for the vaccine,'' the prime minister reiterated. She expressed gratitude to the Kingdom partners, CPS, Ministers,

ministries, and stakeholders for all their hard work in the planning and realization of this project.

Nurse Claudette received her Vaccination Passport, and the Facebook live stream was concluded by the Department of Communication (DCOMM) host Roylyka Roache. The live stream can be re-viewed on the Government of Sint Maarten Facebook page, YouTube channel and also via Cable TV.

Persons interested in receiving the vaccine can sign up via https://onlineservices.sintmaartengov.org/covidvaccine/  or using a form that can be collected at the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Vineyard Office Park Building, the Division of Labor Affairs at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center in Simpson Bay, or at the Government Administration Building.

People who have questions about underlying conditions regarding the vaccine are advised to consult their family physician.

Other questions about vaccination can be emailed to vaccination@sintmaartengov.org or call CPS at 914.

PHOTO CUTLINE: WYCCF Quality Nurse, Claudette Rijff