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WHO official urges Caribbean islanders to “wake up” and get vaccinated

People walk through Old San Juan on March 21, 2021 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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A senior World Health Organization official has pleaded with people in the Caribbean on Wednesday for vaccinations, saying the islands had a limited bed at the ICU.

Dr.Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO’s regional branch in Latin America, said the abundance of vaccine disinformation in the island region makes people hesitant to take the shots.

“I want to make a special appeal to my Caribbean colleagues to please us, we have to be extremely careful,” Etienne said. “We have a limited bed capacity and a limited ICU capacity on our islands … our health systems will become obsolete very soon.”

Health systems there could soon be overburdened if more people are not vaccinated, he said, noting that misinformation has spread across the island.

She said the decision not to vaccinate is “foolish,” especially when hospital capacity is so limited.

“We are playing with our lives. So my appeal to you is, get up, wake up from that dream, wake up from this dream, because we know the vaccines are safe,” Etienne said.

“I don’t know the sources of information that trigger this level of vaccine hesitation. I can tell you that they are not scientifically proven, and I appeal to you to listen to sources where you have truth, scientifically based information and evidence,” he said. Etienne.

A relative of a Covid-19 patient faces code to refill oxygen tanks for his loved ones at the regional hospital in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, Peru.

CESAR VON BANCELS | AFP | Getty Images

There have been some rare ones side effects from vaccines which usually occur within a few weeks of immunization. Etienne said the side effects have been closely monitored by “national, regional and global” scientists, and that action is being taken immediately in case of concerns. Every medication you take has side effects, “and don’t ask for it here,” Etienne said.

“So please, please, please take your vaccines and please wear your mask properly and social distance,” Etienne said. “I know that in the Caribbean we like to be close and we like to get together,” he said.

Etienne said, despite the cultural inclination to join, people should keep their social distance, wash their hands and observe “respiratory etiquette”.


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