“The vaccine has come to save us.”
With this expression of longing, predicting a future of rescue in terms of health, María Rivera Oquendo, 82, described the fact that a large part of the residents of her beloved Isla Nena have access to vaccination against COVID-19 , a process that began on Monday and that projects impact more than a third of the population this week.
“I am very happy because I have many conditions. I get a lot of asthma and I have high blood pressure … I wanted to put it on for a long time ”, said the old woman who moved to Vieques at the beginning of the pandemic to be close to her four daughters. “My daughters do not let me almost go out,” added the lady moments before receiving the vaccine in her left arm.
He urged other older adults to take the opportunity to get immunized. “The vaccine has come to save us, apart from God because it was He who sent the wisdom to those who invented it so that I can be injecting myself now,” he reflected.
Doña Saturnina Lanzó Santiago, also 82 years old and a neighbor of the Las Marías neighborhood, was another participant in the vaccination plan in Vieques, where since Monday, personnel from the Department of Health, the National Guard and private providers such as the Caribbean Medical Hospital traveled to immunize all the people who make up phase 1 (a, b and c) of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan in Puerto Rico. Between Monday and Tuesday, some 1,500 Viequenses were inoculated. Today, the expectation is to reach another 1,000 people. By Friday, Salud projects to have vaccinated 3,500 citizens, more than a third of the 8,386 residents who live on the island.
“A friend accompanied me because I live alone …”, said Saturnina, adding that her two children died and a few years ago she found refuge and solidarity in Yadira Paris, who was married to one of her grandchildren and is now her caregiver. “She brought me here, she was the one who took me when they operated on my heart,” she said about a surgery she underwent two years ago that has forced her to move in a wheelchair.
“I will also take the opportunity to get vaccinated to protect her and my two children, 7 and 9 years old … also, I will return to teach as a teacher and this is something they will ask of me,” Yadira said.
The parents of Mayor José “Junito” Corcino Acevedo – Blanca Acevedo and Antonio Corcino- also left the Vieques vaccination center located at the María Simons de Rivera school with pleasure.
“We were longing for this moment, especially for him who had a heart operation and had two strokes. He’s more exposed, ”said the 71-year-old Blanca of her 70-year-old partner.
On the other hand, the mayor described the effort as successful.
“It really has been a success. Citizens have answered the call and are coming to get vaccinated. That is important to achieve herd immunity, ”said the mayor, noting that they would take advantage of the day to immunize about 30 to 40 residents who are bedridden.
Meanwhile, the secretary Carlos Mellado explained that it was decided to vaccinate all the components of phase 1 due to the lack of access to health resources that they experience on Isla Nena and Culebra. He highlighted that in Culebra they managed to vaccinate all the people who cover phase 1 on Monday. In total about 380 people were vaccinated.
Phase 1 includes health professionals, people over 65 years of age, frontline workers (police, firefighters, emergency management, medical emergencies), teachers, food chain and manufacturing personnel, and transporters, among others.
The daily calendar also included mass tests to detect positive cases of coronavirus through the COVIVEO initiative. 2,000 tests are planned, explained the epidemiologist of the municipality, Yanina Bernhandt. He explained that this is the fifth COVIVEO that takes place on the island municipality. The first was done on December 6 and of 235 tests, some 28 were positive. “That gave us an alert to initiate a containment effort that has borne fruit,” he stressed, noting that today no person has tested positive. In total 160 residents have registered.
“We came with the entire health team with the intention of testing as many people as possible. The idea is to detect positive cases early and treat them. We will be evaluating the cases with symptoms and those with the highest risk will be offered monoclonal treatment. This treatment is very effective and is being used very little on the island. We want to the extent possible that hospitalizations decrease and above all that our people do not die, “said Mellado.
As he explained, they will be conducting massive tests throughout Puerto Rico responding to the Governor’s call to address the pandemic. Antigen tests detect the coronavirus, and can be performed on anyone older than 2 years. The results are ready in 15 minutes and are sent by email or text message. Positive cases are cared for by an epidemiologist and are monitored by the surveillance system of the Department of Health.
Dr. Mellado’s recommendation for those who test positive is to isolate themselves. As far as possible they should stay in a separate room from the family, use a dedicated bathroom and disinfect surfaces constantly.