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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Health chief announces new COVID booster events

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By John McPhaul

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López announced on Sunday additional alternatives for ensuring that 1.2 million people who qualify for the booster dose against COVID-19 are fully vaccinated.

“The vaccine remains the most effective tool against this virus. Unfortunately, like all vaccines, they are not 100 percent effective, but they do save lives,” Mellado López said in a written statement. “It’s important to protect our vulnerable groups, so everyone who qualifies should get their booster dose. We have to redouble protection and lower the fatality rate.”

The Health secretary said so far in January, a total of 377 deaths have been reported. The COVID-19 mortality rate was 21 deaths per 100,000 unvaccinated people and 12 deaths per 100,000 vaccinated people without a booster dose. Meanwhile, five out of every 100,000 people with the booster dose died from complications attributed to the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2.

For this reason, there will be new vaccination events in the municipalities of Patillas, Corozal, Morovis, Arroyo and San Juan while vaccination efforts continue with the help of 900 providers around the island.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said over the weekend that many of the deaths associated with COVID-19 that have been reported in recent days could have been prevented if the victims had been properly vaccinated.

“It makes me very sad. I am seeing the loss of life at that level and it really is that it is avoidable, it is avoidable,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “So let us hope, then, that those who have not yielded to reason do so and that they let themselves be carried away by science, let themselves be carried away by medicine, not by ideological, religious and other issues, with the greatest respect I say this. Here we must allow science to govern and the medical class to be the one to guide us.”

Pierluisi said the deaths mostly occur with older people, with pre-existing health conditions and, in some cases, who have not received the booster dose.

“The vaccine works,” he said. “What the boosters do is that, then, for the vast majority of people who get infected and who have boosters, which are very few in percentage terms, the symptoms are very mild. In the case of the vaccinated, the same thing also happens, the symptoms are not as strong as when you are not vaccinated. Not being vaccinated is the biggest exposure anyone can have. … The most protected are those with boosters. Now, why do we have so much passing away? Well, unfortunately, because yes, we have had community transmission of the omicron variant and when people, again, of advanced age, are infected, they are well exposed and those with [underlying] conditions [are vulnerable] in the same way.”

The governor has so far refused to offer financial incentives for people to get a booster dose.

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