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Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) advises Caribbean countries to be more vigilant, to continue vaccination against COVID-19 and Influenza

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2023. 10:59 am CST.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Health and Wellness

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Nearly three years after the first outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the region, and with a new rise in cases, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is advising the Health Ministries in the Caribbean to continue surveillance of the disease and to also lookout for influenza.

In a press release issued on January 5, CARPHA encouraged the Ministries of Health to keep a tab on “severe acute respiratory illness; hospitalisations and deaths, PCR testing and gene sequencing of severe hospitalised cases; and hospital intensive care to avoid deaths”.

Due to the rise of new sub-variants of Omicron which have been affecting the Caribbean since last year, CARPHA is also advising the public to keep protecting themselves against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by wearing masks and following the cough etiquette.

CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John said that as economic activities and schools have resumed after the Christmas break, it’s crucial that people protect themselves as we did during the peak of the pandemic.

“It is critical that people protect themselves using the measures emphasised during the Pandemic, including good hand hygiene, social distancing, mask wearing in crowded spaces, get tested when having symptoms and more importantly, get vaccinated or boosted,” Dr. St. John said.

“We are aware that more people are self-diagnosing through the use of rapid antigen tests and so the accurate incidence of COVID-19 is hard to assess.

“There is reduced reporting of hospitalisations and death due to COVID-19.  However, other viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have resulted in hospitalisations in the latter half of 2022,” she added.

Dr. St. John said that while many countries, particularly those to the North, have been hit hard during the flu season with overwhelming hospitalizations, the Caribbean has seen a rise in influenza and other respiratory viruses as well. These, CARPHA said, can lead to severe illness and even death in the old, very young, and other vulnerable groups. 

While the cases are substantially less than during the peak of the pandemic, CARPHA emphasized that people are still being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and there are still cases resulting in death.

Apart from encouraging people to follow the COVID-19 protocols, CARPHA continues encouraging people to get vaccinated. 

“CARPHA is assuring the public that WHO-approved vaccines for COVID-19 and influenza are proving effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death,” said the CARPHA press release. 


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