Jamaica hoping to be on list for US vaccines

MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says the Government has been in communication with the United States and is hoping that Jamaica will be one of the beneficiaries of the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to be distributed by the US soon.

“We have to wait and see, but we have been in discussions through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade with our partners in the US Administration around accessing vaccines, whether for sale or grant. Those discussions continue, and so we would certainly hope that is the case,” Tufton told the Jamaica Observer yesterday at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

Yesterday, the White House announced that the Biden Administration is expected to share as many as 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines in coming months, following federal safety reviews.

But whether or not Jamaica is a recipient of such aid in the now over-a-year-long COVID-19 fight is a decision that lies solely in the hands of the US.

“They make those decisions, and our communication lines are open and have been for some times,” said Tufton.

Jamaica yesterday received a fourth shipment of vaccines when 55,200 doses of AstraZeneca arrived in the country through the COVAX medical facility. In response, Tufton said the country has been making “some progress” in receiving the drug, and that another shipment is expected in May.

“We hope that May shipment will be more than the 55,200 we got this time around. The vaccine does not have the virus in it. There’s a view that somehow the vaccine give you COVID and you’re therefore going to have the risk of suffering. There’s no way the vaccine is going to create the virus in you. What is important to know is that when you get the first dose of the COVID vaccine, you need between 21 to 28 days for the vaccine to take effect,” he said.

Addressing speculation that late journalist Michael Sharpe died as a result of the vaccine, Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Jamaica, told the Observer that vaccine-caused health problems are very slim.

“All the evidence is showing that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any risk at all. So the complications or any adverse reactions are extremely rare. I think that Jamaicans who are offered a vaccine are very fortunate. And, therefore, I would strongly recommend that anyone, when they’re offered a vaccine, to take the vaccine,” Theodore-Gandi advised.

So far, 135,000 Jamaicans have received their first shots, and Dr Tufton said the ministry will begin the second phase of the vaccine roll-out, and people can expect to get their second dose at the same location they received their first.

Citing worrying reports from other countries where people are not showing up for second doses, Tufton stressed the necessity for Jamaicans to get the jab a second time for full immunity against the deadly COVID-19 virus.

“The second dose is absolutely fundamental to the full treatment. Because of where we are in the vaccine programme we now have to begin the second phase which is to vaccinate the 40,000 persons due for their second shot in the month of May,” he explained, noting that only about 27,000 vaccines are remaining to continue the administration of first doses.

The second shots, Tufton assured, are being reserved.

“Don’t worry about it. The vaccine is here. We now have your second shot. Prepare yourself to come out in May because we have it and we’re reserving it for you. There’s a place at the table for you. Make the effort to get it,” he said.

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