The COVID-19 vaccines were developed within a year. Is that safe?

Yes it is safe. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has had such an impact on a global level, the development of COVID-19 vaccines was prioritized. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is going fast for several reasons:

  • The COVID-19 virus is similar to the SARS virus that caused an epidemic in 2003 so some knowledge was already available.

  • Different stakeholders are working on the development simultaneously and shared their knowledge.

  • Different stages of the trials are done simultaneously instead of sequentially. However, none of the required steps can be skipped in any trial or approval process.

  • Because COVID-19 vaccines are prioritized, time, money and manpower were made available immediately. For other vaccines, medical researchers often must wait for sufficient funding and volunteers in order to perform a new stage in the trial.

By now, millions of people from various characteristics and cultural groups have been vaccinated worldwide and no new safety concerns have occurred.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA?

An mRNA vaccine or vector vaccine cannot change your genes or change anything in your body’s DNA in any way. The mRNA in the vaccine is only a recipe for the spike protein, it has no ability to do anything else than give instructions to produce the spike protein. After that, they are broken down by your body in a natural way and the antibodies that were produced by your body will stay.

COVID-19 vaccination on Sint Maarten

Do I need to pay for the vaccine?

No, it is free for everyone residing on Dutch Sint Maarten.

Is it mandatory to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, it is not mandatory to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It is highly recommended to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is made available.

By getting vaccinated you not only protect yourself but also your friends, family, and other persons you care about from getting sick from COVID-19.

This means that fewer people get severely ill, fewer people die, the healthcare system is less burdened, and fewer people must stay home from work or school.

Which vaccine will be distributed on Sint Maarten?

Sint Maarten will receive the first batch of vaccines in mid-February 2021. This is the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. Limited doses of vaccines are currently available. It is expected that later in 2021 the availability will increase substantially. In later batches, we might receive other brands of vaccines.

The brand and quantity of vaccines, including timelines for distribution, depending on the policy of the Dutch government.

Any vaccine is approved only after being tested through clinical trials under strict international regulations and meeting all requirements. Only approved vaccines will be distributed and administered to the population.

Who will get the vaccine first?

The availability of vaccines is limited at this time so they cannot be offered to all at once. The advice of the Health Council in the Netherlands is to prioritize persons at increased risk of spreading COVID-19 and persons with increased risk of getting severely ill when they get COVID-19.

The Minister of VSA has defined the priority groups according to this advice.

In the first round of vaccination, the following groups will be offered the vaccine:

  • Healthcare professionals

  • Persons of age 60 years or older with or without underlying conditions

In later phases the vaccine will be offered to everyone living on the island, including persons who are not officially registered.

How can I register for the vaccine?

All WYCCF employees with direct client contact will be offered the covid-19 vaccine in the first round, which starts from the middle of February. You will be offered an appointment at our own location (Sint Martin’s Home) to receive the vaccine. Employees without direct client contact will be vaccinated in the second round, expected to start in April.

What happens during my vaccination appointment?

  • You go the appointed location at the appointed time and date

  • You will be welcomed and the information from your registration is checked

  • You will have to show an ID to check that your name and date of birth match with the registration. You will not be checked for resident documents.

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form for receiving the vaccine and one for sharing information with health institutions for monitoring purposes. Your information will not be shared with immigration.

  • You receive the vaccine

  • You will stay in an observation room for 15 min

  • You receive an appointment for the second vaccination

  • You are thanked and can go home

Can vaccinated persons let go of the preventive COVID-19 measures?

No. Now we know that the vaccines are very effective in protecting against getting severely ill from COVID-19, but we do not know to what extent it protects you from getting infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others. The first goal is to reduce severe illness and death due to COVID-19 and in this way reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

Even though the first results of the effect of the Covid-19 on the spread of the virus look very promising, more research about the effectiveness against getting and spreading COVID-19 is being done and will be shared as soon as possible. Also, to obtain herd immunity, at least 70% of the population needs to be fully vaccinated. This will take a few months.

All preventive COVID-19 measures will have to stay in place on the individual level as well as on the community level.

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The White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) is providing professional care to the community for almost 50 years. The Sister Basilia Center and Guided Living are part of the WYCCF and provide a semi-independent living for (young) adults with an intellectual disability. The Guided Living department, which is located in Guana Bay, Hope Estate, organizes activities that increase the client's independence and social skills. There are 10 apartments, which provide housing for 12 clients. The clients live partially independent and receive 24/7 care from Group leaders, who assist them with living skills every day. In their free time, you can catch them having fun, doing tours on the island, karaoke, movie, and happy hour amongst other things. One thing is that they love to have a good time and meeting and greeting new persons.

The objective of the Guided living group was to strive to ensure that the clients have full opportunities in society. Due to the disabilities of the clients, the step towards complete independence is often too big, so this form of semi-independence is essential. You can see that, because of this semi-independent environment, the clients thrive and improve significantly. It also allows the WYCCF staff to provide tailored support to each individual. On a day-to-day basis, clients has gained part-time employment at St. Martin’s Home, Lydia Flower shop, St. Maarten Medical Center, and Cake House. Which are great examples of what the right environment and support can do for the autonomy of the client.

With the project Guided living project, we wanted to strengthen the client to take from a realistic perspective on his or her own capabilities and make his or her own decisions to the best of their abilities. The clients have come a long way. They sharpened their skills and personalities by gaining control over their lives with an Intellectual Disability, and thereby have a rightful seat in the community of St. Maarten.

Over the years, Guided Living has had many highlights. Too many to share, but one of the highlights was in 2015 when they all went on their very first Cruise ever where they visited, the near-bearing islands like Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic, and Isla Margarita. This trip was a lot of fun and unforgettable for the clients.

On Feb 1st, 2021 Guided living will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have decided yet to celebrate in a quiet and safe manner. An organized weekend hotel stay at Simpson Bay Resorts for all clients and the team. Full with touristic activities a Sunset cruise amongst other activities.

Reflecting on the 10 years we of the Guided Living would like to thank the community and stakeholders like AVBZ funds for financing the care, Cigar Lounge, Director of St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation for supporting us.

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The next Covid-19 Vaccine interview is with 𝐅𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐀𝐝𝐚𝐦 of the Sint Maarten Catholic Church!

𝐂𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐮𝐬 𝐚 𝐛𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟? My name is Adam Oleszczuk, but most people know me as Father Adam. I'm originally from Poland. I have been ordained as a priest in the Catholic church in 1998. Most of my ministry I spent in the Caribbean because soon after my ordination, I went to Jamaica and ministered there for about 16 years. In 2015, I moved to Sint Maarten and this is my sixth year here. I feel very much at home here, in St. Maarten.

I like to read and I’m also a bit of a handyman. There's always something to be done, in the house or in the church. I also like to spend time with people and help them wherever I can.

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐜 𝐚𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐝𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞? I remember, early in March of 2020, walking on the boardwalk in the evenings, and observing passengers who would be waiting for their ferry to St. Bath, I was pondering, when and how the virus would come to us. And then one day suddenly we got the message that the first cases of the virus have been identified on the Dutch side of the island. Within a short time, the decision was made to close the churches. Fortunately, we have some young people at the church who are tech-savvy, so we went online almost right away. This way we were able to let the people know that we are there for them, to encourage and to support, and to pray for one another.

For me personally, I'm not a person who likes to stay in the office. Therefore, it was a little bit difficult for me not to be able to go outside. But I’m happy we were able to resume our activities right after the churches were open, following protocols to create a safe environment for everyone.

I must say that I'm really proud of how we have handled the reopening of our churches. Everyone has responded with such responsibility by following the protocols and creating a safe environment for others.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬, 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐭𝐨 𝐧𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧? I’m not sure if we’re ever going back to the way it was last year, because the world is rapidly changing all the time. Only 20 years ago we didn’t have cell phones, and now we almost can’t imagine living without them.

Personally, I would say yes, we can go back to the way it was before. When you look at the history of humanity, there have been many horrible things that happened to us. And yet, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, we were back at life. I believe that we will overcome this one too and create an even better world. And I think that process has started already, with the introduction of the vaccine.

What bothers me, however, is the fact that vaccination on large scale is only happening in rich countries. I believe it should be happening at the same level around the world so that the whole world would be healed at the same time.

Yes, vaccination is a huge step forward, however, it is just the first step. For time being, we all need to keep wearing masks, especially in public places, or when we are together with others. I think the frequent washing of the hands has become our habit. I always remind myself, the first thing you do when you get home is to wash your hands.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐯𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞?

As a priest, so I’m constantly around people. Even though we follow all the protocols at the church, I want to make sure that I did everything I can to protect the people around me.

It's important for me to be vaccinated so that others who trust me, trust the church, and feel safe around me and in the church. For me, as I repeat all the time at the church, creating a safe environment is priority number one.

I'm not afraid to be vaccinated. When we get vaccinated, we are not only protecting ourselves, but we’re protecting the people around us. I want to encourage everyone who shares my beliefs, please play your part.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐮𝐛𝐭𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐞? I would say, you have the right to doubt. We all ask questions such as: how come that the vaccine was developed so fast? How long will the vaccine last, will we have to take it again soon? And all these are valid questions.

However, we have many vaccines we use in the world today. And all of them save lives. They prevent diseases and save millions of lives. If all these vaccines work, why then shouldn’t this one work too? The entire world has been working on this vaccine, exchanging researches, sharing knowledge, making it the best it can be.

Since we put our interview in a church context, I would like you to know that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is already vaccinated. He has also made many strong statements supporting the Covid-19 vaccination. We too, need to do it, to save lives.

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