Mon. Sept. 27, 2021– Natural fears, personal beliefs and conspiracy theories aside, Belizeans across the nation are faced with one incontrovertible reality where this Covid-19 pandemic is concerned – our major referral hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), has reached its maximum capacity. That is something that we need to sink into our brains, to grasp the full meaning of that stark reality. And then we can go on from there as a warm, loving, caring, patriotic and God- fearing people, and do what we can to try and alleviate the situation, so that precious lives, young and old, and maybe our own, can be saved. However harsh-sounding certain Government-proposed policies may appear, their intention is certainly good, to try and reduce, and hopefully end, the carnage from this deadly enemy.
There are a wide range of diseases caused by bacteria or viruses that have been effectively controlled and practically eradicated through the development of effective vaccines, and most of them are administered to us as young babies or children. Thanks to those vaccines, diseases like polio, whooping cough, Rubella and others are pretty much under control.
But with this current Covid-19 virus, there is still no 100% effective vaccine available, so there are no guarantees. The evidence does show that the current vaccines help significantly; but vax or vax not, any number can still play if you get exposed to this virus. Depending on the extent of your exposure and the strength of your immune system, you may or may not get sick, you may get sick really bad, maybe needing hospitalization, and you may even lose your life to Covid-19, so it is best to try and “stay safe,” as is nowadays the common greeting.
And, once again, how do we try and “stay safe”? In its September 24 Facebook post, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) reminds us “… that even after getting vaccinated, persons are to continue wearing a face mask properly in public, maintain consistent physical distancing, avoid social gatherings, and wash and sanitize hands often.”
According to the September 24 summary figures from MOHW, so far in Belize some 243,294 individuals have been tested for Covid-19, of which there have been 19,600 positive tests, which is a positivity rate of 8.06% of those tested. Of those 19,600 confirmed positive cases, some had to be hospitalized, many recovered, but unfortunately a total of 402 deaths have occurred, which is 2.05% of those who tested positive for Covid.
During the past month, especially since the new Delta variant of Covid-19 became prevalent in Belize, we have been experiencing a third major surge of Covid cases. In this month of September alone, there have already been three Amandala newspaper headlines focusing on Covid-19, the most recent echoing a cry from hospital authorities that “Covid-19 admissions put KHMH at critical point.” According to that headline story, the situation has gotten so bad that “… Dr. Eric Bradley, internist and lead physician inside the Covid-19 Unit… emphasized that if members of the public do not adhere to the regulations, sick patients may soon need to wait outside the unit until space becomes available for them.” Heaven help us!
But we are a resilient and caring people, and most of us believe in the saying that, “God helps those who help themselves.”
It has come down to a question of numbers. There are limited beds (23, by last count) in the KHMH Covid-19 Unit, and limited nursing staff, when the ideal is said to be one nurse per patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to give the maximum care and attention needed. With no relatives of patients around to give emotional support, this level of nursing attention is understandable. And it takes an emotional toll on the nurses too, whenever a patient is lost.
Some individuals have mild side effects from taking the vaccine, some suffer more discomfort. But there is a risk/benefit consideration. High blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are “co-morbidities” that are said to increase the intensity of side effects from taking the vaccine. But it is also agreed that such individuals are also much more vulnerable to serious illness and maybe death if they should contract Covid-19 without having been vaccinated. Each person, with their doctor’s input, has to make their own decision. According to most experts, only the very seriously ill persons with any of the three above-mentioned conditions need be concerned about vaccine side effects. They need to weigh the small risk of side effects from the vaccine against the very dangerous situation they would face if they should later on contract Covid-19. Why? Because the numbers don’t lie; and the numbers say that vaccinated individuals are many times more likely to survive Covid-19 than unvaccinated persons.
The latest comparative mortality figures from KHMH, for the period from April 1 to September 13, are conclusive. Of the 62 Covid deaths recorded within that period, 51 persons (82.2%) were unvaccinated, 7 persons (11.3%) had received only one vaccine, and 4 persons (6.5%) had received two doses of the vaccine. So, those who are NOT vaccinated are more than TEN TIMES more likely to succumb to Covid-19 than individuals who were fully vaccinated.
Now comes the unselfish sacrifice. So, you might be among those whose immune systems are strong, and easily shake off the virus. All well and good for you. But let’s just say you are among those who contract Covid and need hospitalization. Maybe you wouldn’t if you were vaccinated. For every person who receives some protection from the vaccine and thus doesn’t need to be hospitalized, that is one less bed to be occupied, and one less patient for our stressed out nurses to share their tired hands and frayed nerves to try to save.
They are begging you, Belizeans, because they love you so, and want to be able to give each patient the care and attention they will need to try and conquer this terrible enemy.
Putting the comfort of your personal ego and disdain for Big Pharma aside, our nurses and doctors are asking you to please make this sacrifice for your Belizean brothers and sisters, and it may be for yourself too, if fate should still bring you to the doors of KHMH.
Forgive the Government for their overzealous, high-handed approach; they mean well. If you are not in that high-risk co-morbidities group, and even if you are, please consider the small risk versus the great benefit, and maybe you will decide that taking the vaccine is a sacrifice worth making. The more of us who get vaccinated, the more we reduce their burden and make our nurses and doctors feel encouraged, feel appreciated, that their fellow Belizeans are listening to their plea. It is a very small sacrifice compared to the one that has been made for all of us, don’t you think?