On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of construction workers in Cane Garden Bay were given a rare offer during their lunch break: the chance to get free vaccinations.
Nurses from the CGB health clinic were on hand to offer tetanus shots to any willing individuals.
“Today, everything is free,” said Basil Farquharson, manager of health clinics in several areas including CGB, Cappoons Bay and Jost Van Dyke. “We’re just spreading the word.”
The offer is a part of Vaccination Week, organised by the Ministry of Health and Social Development — and it does not just apply to construction workers.
Open houses and immunisation outreach events are taking place across Tortola and the sister islands from April 21 to 28, and are specifically geared towards groups like students, senior citizens, hotel workers and community members.
Each group might have slightly different vaccination needs, Mr. Farquharson said.
“Different people are targeted differently,” he said. “For example, I look in my area and I see a lot of construction going on, like everywhere else, and my idea was that we protect some of these workers — cause you know they’re exposed to tetanus, or lockjaw as it’s locally known.”
And residents of Cappoons Bay are in the spotlight today.
“I’m going to be in the area of Sebastian’s [on the Beach Hotel], and there are a lot of hotel people in that area. I’ll be targeting those people, the hotel workers, and try to give them vaccines against Hepatitis B and A and so on,” Mr. Farquharson said. “Of course we have the other shots, like flu shots, available. It’s totally voluntary. Whoever comes, we’ll give it to them.”
The manager added, though, that it doesn’t matter exactly how many people show up.
“For me — I can’t speak to the other clinics — today I’m hoping to have between 15 and 20 people,” he said on Tuesday. “That would be a success for me if I got that many. I mean, if two or three people come out, still, that will be two of three people we’re protecting against these things.”
Spread of diseases
Vaccination Week in the territory is part of a larger annual effort by member states of the Pan American Health Organisation.
The end goal is to emphasise how vaccines can protect families and the community from “a long list of potentially life-threatening illnesses,” the Ministry of Health and Social Development stated in a press release.
“As we continue our efforts towards recovery, we want to ensure that we continue to protect the welfare of the people of the territory from the youngest to the oldest,” HSD Minister Ronnie Skelton said.
In recent years, a small but vocal number of Americans have expressed concern over vaccinating their children, though the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 29 doses of nine vaccines for ages zero to six, as well as a yearly flu shot at six months old.
Vaccinations in the US are also required for children who attend public schools, according to the CDC.
Mr. Farquharson said not vaccinating children could be dangerous to the population, adding that he is grateful that the vast majority of residents in the Virgin Islands view vaccines positively.
“[The number of residents who think vaccinations are risky] is very small, and mostly for religious reasons,” he said.
“Anyone who tags along to those US ideas might say x, y and z, but we’re very accepting of vaccinations in the Caribbean, Tortola included.
“We have not seen a case of measles until very recently in the Caribbean; there are none in this area. So we have come to the understanding that if we continue [with vaccinations], then we won’t get these diseases. If we stop, like some Americans have stopped with some of them, then they’re getting those diseases now. Vaccines are definitely strengthening your defence against diseases.”