COVID-19 Vaccines in the Cayman Islands
We know you might be thinking about the COVID-19 vaccine and what that means for you and your family. We also understand that some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to note that vaccination is not mandatory for anyone. This information has been compiled to give you all the important information you may need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination programme for the Cayman Islands.
Most people know that vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic. However, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented happenings and scientists have gone hard to work to help stop the pandemic. Although there has been a lot of momentum to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible, you should know that routine processes and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use. Safety is always a top priority.
Here you will find FAQs to see where you fit in when it comes to the roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine. These may also address some of your concerns.
On 2nd December 2020, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination. As a UK Overseas Territory (UKOT), the Cayman Islands received the first batch of these vaccines on 5th January 2021 and commenced the COVID-19 National Vaccination programme shortly thereafter.
Read the FAQs below or click the links to skip to the relevant question:
What is in the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine?
29. I'm still unsure
Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?
Yes, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first vaccine approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This vaccine will be used in the Cayman Islands through assistance provided by the United Kingdom to the UKOTs.
How effective and safe is this COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine offers up to 95% protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is important to note that before a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective, numerous steps need to be achieved before mass distribution.
The safety and immunogenicity of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been evaluated in clinical trials in six countries: the USA, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey.
The clinical trials looked at the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine in different age groups and at different dose levels. Over 43,500 participants have taken part in the clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Half of the participants received the COVID-19 vaccine and the other half received a placebo vaccine. Results from phase three clinical trials suggest that the vaccine can prevent 95% of vaccinated adults from getting COVID-19 disease and that the vaccine works equally well in people in different age groups, races and ethnicities. The observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%.
What is in the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 contains:
- the active substance, which is BNT162b2 RNA.
Each dose is 0.3 mL with 30 micrograms mRNA.
- the vaccine contains polyethylene glycol/macrogol (PEG) as part of ALC-0159
The other ingredients are:
- ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
- ALC-0159 = 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
- potassium chloride
- potassium dihydrogen phosphate
- sodium chloride
- disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate
The vaccine does not contain eggs, preservatives, mercury or antibiotics.
The Pfizer/BioNTech is an mRNA vaccine. What does that mean?
- inactivated virus (like for polio or rabies or influenza);
- protein based (e.g. for hepatitis B or whooping cough);
- viral vector (which includes the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 and is a similar technology to that for smallpox and Ebola);
- and the mRNA type. mRNA stands for ‘messenger RiboNucleic Acid’. The mRNA type of vaccine transports the genetic sequence for the spike protein (from the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus) into our own cells. Our cells then produce the spike proteins which induce an immune response. This does not cause COVID-19 but means that if the body is exposed to the virus, the immune system would recognise and attack the virus.
Will I get side effects with the COVID-19 vaccine?
How can a safe COVID-19 vaccine be made so quickly?
Although vaccine development typically takes many years, scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). That earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
They have also overlapped different stages of the process, such that manufacturing was already well underway whilst the clinical trials were still ongoing; additionally, information was provided to many regulators on a rolling basis, rather than all at once at the end of the trial periods.
Who can get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine has been trialled in adults and anyone over the age of 16 will be eligible. There may be some circumstances in which children may be given the vaccine, for example if they are in a medical high risk group.
Individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to food, an identified drug or vaccine, or an insect sting can receive any COVID-19 vaccine, as long as they are not known to be allergic to component (excipient) of the vaccine. The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) has advised that individuals with a history of immediate onset-anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs or an unexplained anaphylaxis should not be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
When Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
The COVID-19 Vaccination Programme in the Cayman Island is rolling out in three stages.
Within these stages, there are subgroups.
- Individuals aged 70+
- Residents and staff of institutional facilities
- Healthcare workers and first responders
- All frontline staff dealing with incoming travellers
Current evidence shows the biggest risk of death from COVID-19 is age, so those aged 70+ are a top priority followed by those who are on the frontlines.
Stage One, Group A began on Friday, 8 January. Individuals who are within these groups are invited to the 'flu clinic in Grand Cayman and district clinics to receive their vaccinations. The schedule, locations and roll out for the vaccine are available here.
- Adults 60+ or with a relevant health status
- Workers essential to Government continuity
- Anyone aged 16-60 with relevant medical status
- Those living at home with persons from stage one of the programme
- Essential workers
- School staff
- Everyone 16+ who has not already received the vaccination. This will begin with persons aged 50+
The supply of COVID-19 vaccines depends on demand (how many people volunteer to receive it). The more people who volunteer, the more vaccines that the Cayman Islands will receive so individuals who meet the criteria of the group that is currently being vaccinated are encouraged to walk-in to the clinics and receive the vaccine.
Medical professionals will be visiting healthcare and institutional facilities to ensure that those who cannot visit clinics can opt to receive the vaccine.
How will the COVID-19 vaccine be administered?
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered by intramuscular (IM) injection, similar to the ‘flu shot.
I’m pregnant, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Although there is no known risk associated with vaccines during pregnancy or breastfeeding, we still await more evidence if the vaccine is suitable for pregnant women, and therefore it is not recommended.
What about children?
Children will not be a priority group for a vaccine early in vaccine deployment as vaccine trials have only just begun in children and therefore, there are very limited data for this group. It is worth knowing that children and young people have a very low risk of COVID-19, severe disease or death due to SARS-CoV-2 compared to adults.
I’m immunocompromised. Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Individuals who are immunosuppressed or have, for example, HIV infection (regardless of CD4 count) should be given COVID-19 vaccine.
I’m healthy, why should I get vaccinated?
COVID-19 can either make you have a sniffle or serious, life-threatening complications; therefore, there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. If you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you. Getting vaccinated helps towards stopping the pandemic so we can open our borders fully and strengthen our economy.
The Cayman Islands can then go back to a level of normalcy without the fear of getting sick.
How many doses do you need of this COVID-19 vaccination?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses separated by an interval of 21 days for full protection. You will get full protection from this vaccine usually 1–2 weeks after getting your second dose. When you get the vaccine, you will be advised when you need to come back for your second dose.
How long is the duration of protection?
Immunity provided by the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reaches its full effect seven days after the second dose. We will know how long the immunity produced by the vaccine lasts as more data is collected.
However, it is too early to know if whether this is a one-off injection or an annual one, like that for the ‘flu.
How much does it cost to get vaccinated?
The Government is providing the vaccine without a charge through the Public Health department.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me COVID-19?
No, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine does not have any viable virus particles so the vaccine cannot cause disease. The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is an mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine which uses the genetic sequence for the spike protein from the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enable it to be transported into the cells of the body. The cells then produce the spike proteins which allow our immune system to produce antibodies and activate T-cells to respond to any future encounter.
This does not cause COVID-19 but means that if the body is exposed to the virus, the immune system would recognise and attack the virus.
I heard that the COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, is this true?
The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain microchips or any electronics.
I have had COVID-19 already, do I need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Due to the life-threatening complications associated with COVID-19 and known cases of re-infection, you are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you had been sick with COVID-19 and have recovered, leaving at least four weeks from the time of infection.
At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
Once I get vaccinated, can I still get sick?
It is possible you could still get sick as the vaccines are 95% effective, therefore there is a small chance that if you are exposed to COVID-19, you might get sick.
It is also possible to get sick with COVID-19 a few weeks after the vaccination if you have been exposed to the virus. It takes a few weeks to build an immune response after being vaccinated. So it's possible that someone could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and get sick just before or just after vaccination.
Does the Cayman Islands have a COVID-19 Vaccination Programme?
Yes, the vaccination programme is comprised of three vaccination stages in which healthcare and frontline workers will be the first group to be vaccinated.Details are available on www.gov.ky/coronavirus
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be compulsory?
No, it is not compulsory but strongly encouraged.
How many people in the Cayman Islands will need to get vaccinated to protect everyone?
We are aiming that at least 65% of the total population should be vaccinated. This is approximately 44,200 people.
Will we still need to wear masks and practice physical distancing once vaccinated where these are mandated?
The wearing of masks and practising of physical distancing will be required until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and we are sure the vaccine provides long-term protection. Herd immunity is achieved when a sufficient proportion of the population is made non-infectious through vaccination so that the likelihood of an infectious individual transmitting to a susceptible individual is very low. Frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette are essential in stopping the spread.
Okay, where do I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Please visit the Public Health website, to learn where you can get your COVID-19 vaccine. This site will have the information as soon as it becomes available.
Can other vaccines, including flu vaccines, be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccines?
COVID- 19 vaccines should not be routinely offered at the same time as other vaccines. Scheduling of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines should ideally be separated by an interval of at least fourteen (14) days more so as not to incorrectly attribute potential adverse events rather than any potential for interaction. Public Health also recommends waiting a month for some vaccines, such as Hepatitis B.
Will the vaccine make me infertile?
If you are considering pregnancy soon, accepting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to you is a great way to ensure that you — and your pregnancy — are protected. COVID-19 vaccination is not believed to affect future fertility.
Will the vaccine protect me against the new variants that have been seen in the United Kingdom (and elsewhere) and South Africa towards the end of 2020?
It is very reassuring that evidence suggests the current vaccines will protect against these new variants. Plasma taken from people who have been vaccinated has been shown to ‘neutralise’ these mutations.
Can the COVID-19 virus still be transmitted from someone who has received the vaccine but remains asymptomatic?
We believe that this might be possible i.e. someone might have had a proper course of the vaccine and be protected themselves, but still might be able to transmit the infection to someone else. This is because the inside of the body is protected against an infection but the infection might still be able to survive in the upper airways. However, a person who does not have symptoms is also not coughing and sneezing which very much reduces the possibility of transmission. More information about this aspect will come out when the scientists have had more time to study the effects of vaccinations of large numbers of people. The best thing to do to protect the community is to take the vaccine.
Here is summary of the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination based on what we currently know. The Ministry of Health along with Public will continuously update their information as we learn more.
COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19
- A vaccine will be authorized or approved only if they make it substantially less likely you’ll get COVID-19
- Being vaccinated will help you protect those you love and care about
COVID-19 vaccination will be a safer way to help build protection
- COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you.
- Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use
COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic
- The vaccine will help us to re-open borders and better help the economy to recover
- Vaccines may help stop the spread of disease
Still have Questions?
Visit our general COVID-19 FAQs.