MoH closes a major vax site as WHO bemoans difficulties in tracking Covid-19

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By Kadeem Joseph

[email protected]

Covid-19 vaccinations at the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre will be suspended as of today, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that tracking the virus is “under threat”.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health announced that citizens and residents are now encouraged to utilise the other Covid-19 vaccination sites at the Villa Polyclinic, the Glanvilles Polyclinic and the main public health centres to receive their first, second and booster doses of the inoculation against the sometimes deadly and debilitating virus.

Additionally, the ministry explained that this weekend, Covid-19 vaccines will be administered at the Villa Polyclinic from 9am to 3pm on Saturday.

The disbursement of vaccination cards will, however, continue at the Multipurpose Centre.

Antigua and Barbuda has been stripping away Covid-19 protocols since the start of the year in a bid to transition to a state of “living with” the virus.

On Monday, the health ministry announced that PCR tests will no longer be required for confirmation of the Covid-19 virus in persons who test positive by an approved rapid antigen test.

However, the ministry further explained that PCR tests are still required for people who are suspected, or probable, Covid-19 cases or close contacts of confirmed cases.

The costly test is also required when there are inconclusive rapid antigen tests, along with all cases that require hospitalisation due to respiratory symptoms, and all persons requiring hospital admissions.

However, during a press conference this week, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, underscoring that that increase is being driven mostly by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

“This pandemic is changing, but it’s not over,” Dr Ghebreyesus warned.

He further cautioned that the ability to track Covid-19’s genetic evolution was “under threat” as countries relaxed surveillance and genetic sequencing efforts.

He explained that this reality would make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants.

The WHO director has called on countries to immunise their most vulnerable populations, including health workers and people over 60, adding that the number of people who remain unvaccinated and at risk for severe illness and death is in the hundreds of millions.

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