The country received more than 400,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines on 31 December 2021
Starting tomorrow, Friday 07 January 2022, people aged over 40 and who are due for their COVID-19 booster dose will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine as the booster dose.This announcement was made, today, by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Jagutpal, during a press conference, held at the seat of his Ministry, in Port-Louis. Dr Kowlessur, member of the vaccination committee and Officer-in-charge of the planification aspect of the national vaccination campaign, and Dr Nuckcheddy, member of the vaccination committee, and Officer-in-charge of infection, prevention and control, were also present. According to the Minister, Pfizer vaccines were administered to those aged less than 18, that is, adolescents aged between 12 and 17, and people aged more than 70 years. The country received more than 400,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines on 31 December 2021 and thus it will be extended to more people, he said. Dr Jagutpal remarked that more than 15% of the population has received the booster dose. International studies have demonstrated that vaccines offer a protection over a certain period of time and that is why the booster dose is important, he emphasised. He also recalled that as from 15 January 2022 new regulations will come into force redefining the status of ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID-19 and accordingly citizens will be given access to certain premises only if they are fully vaccinated. As regards the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Minister said that international studies have demonstrated the need to be inoculated with two doses of the vaccine to be considered as fully vaccinated. Therefore, the vaccination committee is working on this aspect and changes will be brought in the coming weeks to that effect, he indicated. Speaking about sequencing, he revealed that out of 79 samples collected from 16 to 27 December 2021, 70 are local and nine are imported cases. The results are as follows: 62 cases of the Delta variant were detected out of which 55 are local and seven imported cases; and, 17 cases of the Omicron variant were detected out of which 15 are local and two are imported cases. On the topic of vaccination, he highlighted that the rate has reached over 72% for those who have received the two doses of the vaccine. He appealed to those who need to take the booster dose to come forward and also encouraged those who have not yet been inoculated to do so. Outcome of the Health Sector for 2021 The Minister moreover gave an overview of the outcome of the health sector for 2021. He noted that the country has exceptionally succeeded in rolling out vaccination and 2021 was the year of vaccination for the Ministry of Health and Wellness. More than 900,000 vaccinations have been carried out which include first, second and booster doses, he underscored. During the last quarter of the year, said Dr Jagutpal, we registered many COVID-19 cases and we had to reinvent our services to offer healthcare other than those related to quarantine, contact tracing and testing. Additionally, several recruitments at various levels have been made to allow the health system function properly, he stated. We have adapted to different COVID-19 treatment and have continued to adapt ourselves in terms of health protocols, he underscored. The health system, highlighted the Minister, operates on a 24/7 basis with more than 14,000 employees and throughout 2021, with COVID-19, Mauritius has continued to offer healthcare services across hospitals, dispensaries, area health centres, mediclinics even when the country was under lockdown. More than 37,000 interventions were carried out, attendance in casualty and OPD has surpassed 2,5 million which demonstrates that the public trusts the healthcare system, he emphasised. The Minister also spoke about the introduction of novelties during 2021 such as the inauguration of the following: a neonatal ICU and spine unit at Victoria Hospital; and a frangipane centre and a laboratory at the Brown Sequard Hospital. He further recalled that the strategy with the clinical guidelines was set up last year and in 2022 we will embark on evaluation and monitoring. Progress, he observed, has been noted at the level of antenatal clinics and preconception care and emphasis has also been on prevention. The NCD survey was carried out during 2021 and the YEPAD was also rolled out to empower the youth to stay away from drugs, he said. Prevention has likewise been carried out through health caravans, he underscored. He moreover lauded the healthcare personnel for their work and expressed satisfaction that the outcome for 2021 is positive. As regards the National Assembly, he remarked that the Mental Health Act and Optical Council Act were amended. Omicron variant and vaccination campaign As for Dr Nuckcheddy he spoke about the Omicron variant which is a variant of concern and which has mutated several times and was detected in South Africa for the first time and propagated at a fast rate. Some studies have demonstrated that the mortality rate attributed to this variant is possibly less than the Delta variant but its transmission rate is more, he said. The efficiency of the vaccines against Omicron is however reduced due to the various mutations and hence the importance of getting the booster jab for an enhanced protection, he emphasised. For his part, Dr Kowlessur highlighted that the vaccination campaign has started since 04 January 2022 with 951,532 persons having received the first dose (75,2%), and 914,300 vaccinated with the second dose (72,2%), while 15% of the population have received the booster dose, that is, 190,249. A total of 47,972 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years have been vaccinated with the first dose (48,2%) and 34,915 adolescents are fully vaccinated (35,1%), he indicated. The Pfizer booster dose, he pointed out, is already being offered at the level of the five regional hospitals for the health personnel and high-risks patients. Dr Kowlessur further indicated that the Pfizer booster dose will now be administered across the eight vaccination centres from Monday to Friday (09 hours to 15 hours) in alphabetical order to those who have already received two doses of AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, Sputnik and Sinopharm since the past four months. He also announced that on Saturday the Health Ministry will be working with EDB, Business Mauritius, MEXA, and the Ministry of Public Service, Administrative and Institutional Reforms, to offer vaccines to those people who have made an appointment with EDB. The booster dose will be offered in the eight vaccination centres for those aged 40 and above and Johnson & Johnson for those aged between 18 and 39 years across six vaccination centres, he said. Thirteen private clinics will be administering the booster dose Johnson & Johnson and as from Monday there will be two mobile clinics which will administer vaccines to adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years and two mobile teams will go on workplaces, he stated.