The Ministry of Health in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will not disclose the age and sex of the individual persons who test positive for COVID-19.
“I’m not going to tell you the age and sex,” Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache told iWitness News at a press conference on Thursday.
“Rather, I can give you a range,” she said, adding, “The difference between knowing the individual age and sex, what’s the need for that specific?
“Rather, we should be looking at a trend. Is it that our population that’s becoming sick is any different to the other populations? And so from our information from the small number we have already, we have an age range of 21 to 67,” Keizer-Beache said.
The CMO was asked why her ministry was reluctant to give the age and sex of each patient.
“Because … we are very conscious of what happened with the first two cases,” Keizer-Beache said, without elaborating.
“And this is not something unique to St. Vincent, I must say. St. Vincent is a very small population. And if you start listing out person A, who is this age and this sex and encountered this, was in this situation, it becomes very easy to identify.
“And what is the reason? Why do you need to know the age and sex? Is it that you want to be able to identify or the public health interest in age and sex is for us to determine if our at-risk population is different from somebody else?”
“And so for our interest and for the public’s interest, I would think they would want to know who is at risk. Is it that we are only having old persons who have diabetes and hypertension, or are we having young persons who have no pre-existing condition?
“So for now — and that should be the aim so persons understand who is at risk. Am I at risk? For now we have a range of 21 to 67. We have had no one under the age of 21. We have persons who have pre-existing conditions and persons without pre-existing conditions.
“We have had a distribution of males to females of 70% of our males 30% of females; that is something that is consistent with what we’re seeing elsewhere.
Interestingly, iWitness News had asked only for the age and no other detail relating to each case.
In response to the CMO, Kenton Chance of iWitness News, who had asked the questions, said he had “no personal interest” in the information he had requested.
“…but when people have information, they can make certain determinations for themselves,” Chance said, adding that it is similar to people making a determination about whether to wear a mask, “based on certain information”.
Chance said he was not commenting “one way or the other” on Kingstown’s decision, but noted that there are other jurisdictions in the region that disclose the age and gender of each patient.
“… like, for instance, if you say a 39-year-old male tested positive for COVID-19, I could be in that group,” Chance said.
“But I don’t think saying, ‘We have a positive test; a 39-year-old male’ would necessarily identify a person. I mean, that’s my view based on that limited information. I just felt a need to make that clarification,” the journalist further stated.
Meanwhile, in an interview with VC3 on Wednesday, it was noted that there were17 cases of COVID-19 to date, nine of which had recovered from the illness.
Keizer-Beache was asked if there was breakdown in terms of gender with regard to those persons who tested positive for the illness.
She said that of the 17 cases 70.6% are males and 29.4% are females.
This translates to 12 males and five females.
“In terms of the age range, we have gone between around the early 20s to the late 60s. Let’s see… So we have more males and females.”
And, Medical Officer of Health, Roger Duncan, who was a guest on the same programme, said that the figure were “consistent with the global picture”.
Duncan said that globally there are about two men for every one woman who test positive for COVID-19.
Duncan said there is some speculation “in terms of health-seeking behaviour for men”, who are probably less likely to pay attention to symptoms or go for health care.
“Men, apparently — well, we want to think are more smokers compared to women; that’s probably one. But the main crux of it is really we’re really not sure what it is that is driving this is higher prevalence among men,” Duncan said.
Keizer-Beache, however, said that because SVG was dealing with low figures, “it’s kind of difficult to actually get a true picture.
“And remember, a significant number of our persons came from particular cruise ships and that the proportion of persons there would be more males than females.
“So that has sort of skewed the distribution in our case, but it’s still in keeping with what seems internationally that more men than women turn up with COVID.”