Jamaica Observer:- More than 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far in what the Government is touting as a major triumph against vaccine hesitancy that had initially greeted this leg of its management of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Today is an important milestone for the vaccination programme in that we have crossed the 500,000 mark [comprising single and double doses] for vaccines applied to Jamaicans. So far we are at 500,600 plus, but the day is not finished yet, they are still administering as we speak, so we won’t get the final numbers today,” Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the Jamaica Observer some minutes after 4:00 pm yesterday.
The Andrew Holness Administration has long said its intention is to administer 700,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of this September on a mission to achieve herd immunity.
Yesterday, the health and wellness minister said authorities were well on their way to the September target, given the rate of take-up in recent days.
“The important thing is that we have passed the 500,000 mark, which I think is an important indication of the increased rate of the take-up of vaccines. It is worth noting, given all the efforts that have been put out and the Jamaicans who have come out and waited and benefited from the different brands, and it’s a good sign for the future,” Dr Tufton stated.
He said the uptick in the number of people taking the jabs was the result of several factors, including efforts by the State to make the vaccines available and the willingness of clinicians to work longer hours, going beyond the call of duty, to help individuals who turned up to be vaccinated.
He said, too, the recent push to have children 12 to 18 years old vaccinated over the just-ended four days — three of which were no-movement days — also contributed significantly.
“I think the children being included also contributed, because we found children coming with their parents and guardians. Twenty-six thousand children between the ages of 12 and 18 got vaccinated over the four-day period. In total, 56,000 individuals were vaccinated for that period,” Dr Tufton told the Observer.
“I do believe, too, that the uptick that we have seen recently is a consequence of a more aggressive communications programme, some of it highlighting the consequences of COVID, so the exposés in the hospitals, the testimonials, but also some of our key influencers like the Church, entertainers and others. Also the fact that the Pfizer [vaccine] brand has its own following, and more people have come on board, and with the Johnson & Johnson [vaccine] now, more people are expected to do the same,” he added.
In the meantime, he said the challenge for the health authorities is to continue the same level of effort to provide access.
“We intend in the weeks to come to engage in a more community-based activation, where we will go into communities, working with civic leaders, the Church, our trade unions, our employers through the private sector, members of parliament, councillors, and we will see some more stepped-up activity. I am confident that you will see more [people taking the vaccines], but today signals, to my mind, a tribute to the hard efforts of the public health team, the communication that was necessary to overcome some of the objections, the nurses and doctors on the front line who have had to be applying the vaccines, and, of course, the people who have responded,” Dr Tufton said.
In the meantime, Jamaica yesterday received 200,000 additional doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Government of Canada. Over the last four weeks the island has received more than 820,000 doses of vaccines, including 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom, 200,000 Pfizer jabs from the United States, and 115,000 Johnson & Johnson purchased by the State.
“We do expect over the next couple of weeks to get an additional 100,000 plus, so what it would mean is that we would have seen over this period of time a fairly good pace of vaccine arrivals into the country,” Tufton said yesterday.
“We did predict that this would happen and this is a demonstration of the credibility of what we had said, and having received this amount and now administered over 500,000 doses we clearly are in a position and have some momentum on which to build to continue the drive and get more Jamaicans to come on board,” he added.
In an update on August 12 health officials said some 391,076 people had been vaccinated, 255,961 of whom received their first dose; 134,186 got second doses; and 929 got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.