Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar-George has disclosed that vaccine misinformation and false information have hindered greater children’s immunisation.
In September this year, Saint Lucia’s Freedom Coalition urged the CMO to stop encouraging people to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Coalition cited the ‘significant number of excess deaths’ reported in Saint Lucia and worldwide since the advent of the COVID-19 injections.
However, the CMO told reporters on Thursday that the Ministry of Health uses its data for guidance regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have not noted any deaths related to the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, and we have been monitoring possible side effects that you may get from vaccines,” the CMO stated.
She recalled the COVID-19 immunisation drive gave rise to misinformation and false information in the public domain, affecting childhood vaccination.
“We saw the benefits of the vaccine in terms of reducing hospitalisations and deaths during that period. So we, as a Ministry, we will continue providing the public with accurate information,” the Senior Health Ministry official stated.
Belmar-George spoke amid a children’s vaccination drive that began on November 18, 2023.
The campaign will run until December 17, 2023, in all communities.
The Chief Medical Officer observed that post-COVID-19, the Ministry of Health assessed all its regular programmes to identify gaps caused by diverting staff to deal with the pandemic’s effects.
Belmar-George said the Ministry discovered that many children had no vaccine coverage for several reasons.
As a result, she said Ministry officials sought to work with communities and parents to increase the vaccine coverage, including a ‘mop-up’ review since 2021.
The CMO said the initiative intensified this month and has been going well.
“This is extremely important for us. We are a small country. Through the immunisation programme that commenced in the seventies, we have been able to eliminate certain vaccine-preventable diseases,” Belmar-George noted.
However, she told reporters on Thursday that global travel and trade make Saint Lucia very susceptible to developing illnesses the country’s health sector has not had to manage for many years.
The hope is that Saint Lucia’s vaccination coverage would reach ninety-five percent to ensure children remain healthy, Belmar-George disclosed.
She explained that the current coverage was in ‘the early thirties’.