To maintain Puerto Rico’s stability in the face of the pandemic, the Department of Health on Sunday urged people to come to receive their booster vaccine against COVID-19, especially taking into account a recent increase in positive cases.
“We are going to emphasize the administration of the booster dose in eligible populations. We are reinforcing the importance of early detection and education on the management of positive cases in the family environment ”, said the Secretary of Health, Carlos Mellado, in statements to The new day.
In Puerto Rico, some 279,577 people, or 11.8% of the population, have received their booster dose, according to the database of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Given the increase in cases observed, the doctor Melissa Marzan Rodriguez, chief health epidemiology officer, assured that the agency has reinforced in the last two weeks the strategies to mitigate an increase, such as a test campaign in the municipalities where increases and outbreaks have been identified for the early detection of cases, support for research and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine orders, symptom monitoring, and visits by the investigation team to different activities that gather people.
At the moment, Puerto Rico is at a moderate level (yellow) of transmission, with approximately 20 cases (confirmed and probable) per 100,000 people. An important threshold that Salud pays attention to is if the 150 daily cases are exceeded on a sustained basis for a period of 7 days, or 32 cases per 100,000.
“The pandemic is a global phenomenon. We are connected and increases in other regions eventually hit us. We have all the tools to mitigate the risks and avoid an increase in mortality due to COVID-19, ″ said Marzán. The epidemiologist indicated that, for risk mitigation, the agency has bet on the universal use of masks in closed places and in open places with crowds and tourist places.
“We have regulated the crowds; 100% vaccinated; 50% of the population mixed and with a negative test. Also, we have established as a policy the implementation of quarantine for contacts close to a case as mitigation measures in exposed cases and isolation has been maintained for positive cases as a mitigation measure.”He added.
Given the increase that has been observed, the executive director of the VOCES Vaccination and Prevention Coalition, Lilliam Rodríguez, said that it is necessary to accelerate the speed with which people are coming to receive the reinforcement.
“We have doubled the number of people who have received the reinforcement in our centers, but we need it to be much faster,” he told this medium.
For his part, the biostatistician Rafael Irizarry highlighted this Sunday in his analysis through his Twitter profile that, unlike the rebound that began in July in the western area of Puerto Rico, “The increase we see now is driven by San Juan”. That increase has been observed for more than ten consecutive days, with a positivity rate of 3.1% in tests and 2.7% in single cases, compared to 1.8% and 1.4%, respectively, on October 27.
Irizarry, a member of the Scientific Coalition, warned on Friday that the last time an increase in the positivity rate was seen without stopping in time, it resulted in a rebound that left 647 deaths from COVID-19.
The doctor Daniel Colon, President of the Coalition, recalled that, around this time last year 2020, Puerto Rico experienced its worst rebound during the pandemic. Although the rebound is currently small, he noted, “It is now that things can be done to prevent it from growing, we must not wait for hospitalizations and deaths to rise to protect ourselves.”
Through his profile on Twitter, Colón reiterated the importance of wearing a mask and practicing basic preventive measures such as hand washing and physical distancing. Similarly, he extended the call for people to be vaccinated and receive the reinforcement against COVID-19.
The Secretary of Health recalled, in turn, that in November 2020 there was no approved vaccine and the treatments that are available today against COVID-19. “As for the rallies in March and August 2021, they were as a consequence of the variations and in the same way it was reflected worldwide. Today we have more than 83% of the population (suitable for vaccination) fully vaccinated, ”said Mellado.
“In Puerto Rico, rigorous measures have been implemented to protect the population. The measures established by the government have been at the forefront and have served as an example for other jurisdictions ”, he argued.
Who can get the booster vaccine?
The group of individuals who qualify to receive their COVID-19 booster is broad. “We are promoting that people seek their booster dose as soon as possible, in view of the upcoming Christmas and Thanksgiving dates, and that we prevent cases from continuing to increase,” stressed the director of VOCES, an entity that has been the Health operational arm in the vaccination process.
As approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDAand the CDC, people who completed their series with Pfizer or Moderna 6 months or more ago are eligible for a booster if they are 65 years of age or older, if they are between 18 and 64 years old, and work or live in high risk for the coronavirus, or if you have a medical condition that places you in the highest risk group.
As for people who completed their series with the single dose of Janssen, all individuals 18 years of age or older who received the vaccine two months or more ago are eligible for a booster. The executive director of VOCES emphasized that the single dose of Janssen “has shown to have a much lower level of immunity over time,” so the recommendation for people who were vaccinated with said vaccine is that their dose of reinforcement either from Pfizer or Moderna. Both the FDA and CDC endorsed that anyone eligible for a booster can get the dose from a different brand than the one they initially received.
Rodríguez also reiterated the call to parents to take their children between the ages of 5 and 11 to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
VOCES has nine main vaccination centers, located in nine shopping centers: Plaza Las Américas in San Juan, San Patricio Plaza in Guaynabo, Canton Mall in Bayamón, Catalinas Mall in Caguas, Hatillo Mall, Aguadilla Mall, Mayagüez Mall and in the Outlets in Canóvanas. All the centers operate from Monday to Saturday, and the centers in Plaza Las Américas and Mayagüez Mall also operate on Sundays. Pregnant people and health professionals do not have to queue at these centers.