The National COVID-19 Consultative Vaccine Committee is reviewing virus transmissibility for fully vaccinated individuals following the recent change in entry requirements to The Bahamas, according to committee chair Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis.
As of May 1, fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to present a negative RT-PCR test to enter The Bahamas.
Dahl-Regis was asked yesterday about healthcare workers’ concerns regarding the possible risk fully vaccinated individuals may still pose for the country, which is already grappling with its third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She replied, “The committee is reviewing the transmissibility. Are you able to transmit the virus after you’ve been fully vaccinated? That is the only discussion we need to have and how long after you’ve been fully vaccinated do you need any testing.
“Now, the new guidelines, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and what’s coming out of the European guidelines [state] that once you’re fully vaccinated, you are protected. Further to that, the transmissibility of the virus, they haven’t documented that it doesn’t occur but it does not produce significant illness.
“So, you have the situation where someone who has been vaccinated and they would have a breakthrough, we call it a breakthrough. So, we look at the timing of that and it hasn’t occurred to the extent two weeks after you’ve been fully vaccinated, but we’re being guided. The story is still being written. Research is ongoing. There’s no final chapter with COVID.”
For months now, those traveling to The Bahamas from other countries have been required to test negative for COVID-19 by way of an RT-PCR test within five days before entering the country.
In the House of Assembly last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that fully vaccinated people traveling both domestically and internationally will be exempted from testing requirements that have been in place for months.
Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said the new policy is unwise and puts the country at risk for another surge in cases.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams who said there is no guarantee that fully vaccinated individuals will not contract or spread COVID-19.
While the prime minister has cited CDC guidelines on travel for fully vaccinated individuals, the CDC also notes that it is not clear whether fully vaccinated people can still transmit COVID-19 to others.
“Although COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick, scientists are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you do not have symptoms,” the CDC’s website states.
“Early data show the vaccines do help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.”
The CDC also still requires people entering the United States to be tested for COVID-19.