People walk through Old San Juan on March 21, 2021 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
A senior World Health Organization official asked people in the Caribbean to get vaccinated on Wednesday, saying the islands had limited intensive care beds.
Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, WHO’s regional branch in Latin America, said the abundance of misinformation about vaccines in the island region is making people reluctant to get the vaccinations.
“I would like to address my fellow Caribbean people in particular, we have to be extremely careful,” said Etienne. “We have limited bed capacities on our small islands and limited capacities in the intensive care unit … our health systems will very quickly be overwhelmed.”
Health systems there could quickly become overloaded if more people weren’t vaccinated, she said, noting that misinformation had spread across the islands.
She said the decision not to get vaccinated was “foolish”, especially when hospital facilities are so limited.
“We play with our life. So my appeal to you is: get up, wake up from this slumber, wake up from this dream, because we know the vaccines are safe, ”said Etienne.
“I do not know the sources of the information that cause this level of vaccine reluctance. I can tell you that it has not been scientifically proven, and I encourage you to listen to the sources for truthful, scientifically based information to have.” Information and evidence, “said Etienne.
A relative of a Covid-19 patient queues to recharge oxygen tanks for loved ones at the regional hospital in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon.
CESAR OF BANCEL | AFP | Getty Images
There were some rare side effects from the vaccines that usually occur within a few weeks of being vaccinated. Etienne said that side effects are being closely monitored by scientists “nationally, regionally and globally” and that immediate action will be taken if concerns arise. Every drug you take has side effects, “and you don’t question them there,” said Etienne.
“So please, please, please take your vaccines and please wear your mask properly and keep social distance,” said Etienne. “I know we Caribbean people like to be close and like to meet,” she said.
Etienne said that despite the cultural inclination to congregate, people should keep social distance, wash their hands, and observe “breath etiquette”.