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Concerns about vaccine canvassing and preferences


MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Jamaicans are being urged to take the first COVID-19 vaccine that becomes available to them as the country’s death toll from the dreadful virus climbed to 1,772 yesterday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who visited Manchester High School as part of a tour of vaccination sites in Manchester on Thursday, urged Jamaicans to desist from using brand names as an excuse for not taking the vaccine.

“Some people are reading here and reading there, and uncle calling from abroad and telling them ‘This is the one I take’ and influencing [the] decision that you are making here in terms of preference for a vaccine. Well let me tell you something. On my way here I received a call telling me that a constituent of mine passed in the hospital early this morning. He obviously was a victim of COVID-19,” said Holness.

“Don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Take the first vaccine that is available, because that is the best vaccine. All the vaccines that are available here that we have procured, and we have put into the system for your use, all of them are safe for use and all of them give you a very high level of protection — and all of them will save your life,” insisted Holness.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness earlier this week postponed the administering of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is reportedly a crowd favourite.

There was a reportedly low turnout of people to get vaccinated at centres throughout Manchester yesterday.

When the Jamaica Observer visited Manchester High and the Greenvale Community Centre on Thursday the turnout was significantly low in comparison to previous days when the Pfizer vaccine was available.

However, Rhoda Crawford, MP for Central Manchester (Jamaica Labour Party), said some people had used the no-movement days to get vaccinated.

“What would have been happening over the last few days, we have been encouraging persons to come out today. Some persons took the opportunity to make use of the no-movement days because they had to return to work yesterday and today,” she said on Thursday.

Holness, in responding to concerns of inadequate community canvassing, reiterated the plan for ‘vaccine ambassadors’.

“What you are seeing is the front-facing aspect of the entire initiative. There is also a behind the scenes aspect, which is the hiring of 40 community workers. These probably would be drawn from the political [and] community organisations,” he said.

He said the workers who will be hired for four weeks must be vaccinated and that they will be equipped with a marketing tool.

“We expect that, in coordination with the Member of Parliament, that they would be sent out into the communities to do exactly what you have just asked — to knock on doors and to say to people ‘We are here to promote the vaccination programme,’ ” said Holness.

Mikael Phillips, MP for Manchester North Western (People’s National Party), told the Observer on Thursday that there needs to be enough time to canvass communities.

“The only thing that I would change is to be able to go out and get the canvass on persons who would have an interest or [who are ]not willing to leave their communities. We need some time to go in and send some persons in to canvass, because to say that you’re organising and we are getting money to be able to pick up individuals and [yet] you don’t know who you picking up, especially with the high level of anti-vax persons that you may find in the society,” he said.

“…To be able to make it more efficient you need some time frame between when we get the calls to organise it and when the actual thing is. A [week’s] notice when you are just coming out of a lockdown is just not adequate,” added Phillips.

Holness said the community workers will assist in mobilising the transportation of people to the vaccination sites.

He said the mobilisation and sensitisation of people to come out and get vaccinated will have to be done on a daily basis.

The prime minster opined that the touring of communities with the vaccination message has a psychological effect on people.

“It opens their mind to the seriousness about the vaccination, and that should be backed up now by the (MPs), the councillors and that 40 core of community workers going around and mobilising,” he said

“It’s one thing to have the ads played on the air. It is one thing for us to speak in Parliament. People would hear it, it will register, but some people are only moved when they can see someone who they know, an influencer in their community. It is also an unfortunate commentary that there are just some people who just won’t do it unless it is so convenient,” he added.

He said the challenge is to process people quickly when they get to vaccination sites.

“We are masters at mobilising people, [and] that is what we are doing. The challenge is now to process them very quickly and conveniently when they get to the sites, and that has been a challenge and we are working on that,” said Holness.

He said there was no sign of inconvenience at vaccination sites whilst on tour in Manchester.

“People have been moving through, but again the sites weren’t overwhelmed. It is when they are overwhelmed that we see these challenges,” he added.

He explained the logic of Sundays as no-movement days in the new curfew measures.

“The economy is also made up of the higgler selling in Coronation Market and we have to consider that Saturday is their market day, that is just the reality of the situation, so it would be challenging to shift the no-movement day to a Saturday,” he said.

“Bear in mind that we have significantly restricted movement on a Saturday by having a 6 o’clock curfew…. It is about limiting movement and balancing commerce,” he said.





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