PHILIPSBURG – The impending arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine on St Maarten has divided the community. Some islanders are positive they want the vaccine and believe it will offer the solution for them to regain the freedoms lockdown and isolation took away. There are others who remain hesitant and uncertain, doubting that a vaccine developed in such a short space of time could be safe.
Dr James Young, one of the pastors at the St Maarten Bible Baptist Church on Arch Road says he will gladly take the vaccine in the hopes he can live a freer life again. Heexplains that although he has not received information about the vaccines to share with his congregation he does his best to assure some that the vaccine is not ‘666 the mark of the beast’.
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By Tim van Dijk & Jenny Steel
The two COVID-19 vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for St Maarten are the BioNTech/Pfzier vaccine and the Moderna vaccine; both will be issued free of charge to registered St Maarten residents. The brand and quantity of the vaccines including timelines for distribution has not officially been finalised. There has also been no further comment on whether the undocumented immigrant population on St Maarten will be entitled to vaccinations. The island is expected to receive enough vaccinations for 70% of the registered population.
Currently representatives from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport VWS in the Netherlands are in St Maarten liaising with representatives from the Ministry of VSA to review the COVID-19 vaccination plans. Health Minister Richard Panneflek confirmed that the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and the department of Public Health are identifying areas for improvement in the vaccination plans.
Minister Panneflek about the vaccination plans
Preparations for the arrival of the vaccines are underway by CPS. This week, a vaccine training session was conducted by Dr Daphne Illias and Eva de Weever for government employees. Minister Panneflek also confirmed that freezers intended to store the vaccines have recently arrived on the island.
At Greenmeds clinic in Philipsburg, Dr Frits Bus believes the government and CPS are doing their best to update family practitioners on what the plans are when they have information. Dr Bus does not see the government as disorganised for not having information about when, where, how and who will get the vaccine.
One of the main concerns for Dr Bus is that his patients are educated and have the right information about the vaccine. He is of the opinion that not enough people have educated themselves enough and he would not take the vaccine if offered.
Dr. Bus worries about the vaccine
What information about the vaccination plan is available to the St Maarten public?
Medical professionals on the island are updated by CPS whenever they have information about the vaccine which they are then able to pass onto their patients.
The CPS Facebook page displays an infographic outlining myths and truths about the Covid-19 vaccine. The graphic debunks myths which suggest ‘the vaccine contains fetus tissue, microchips and toxic ingredients and preservatives.’ There are also two short animations which explain how the vaccines work and how the Covid vaccine was developed so quickly.