Jamaica secures vaccines for 1.5 million people

Jamaica should be in a position to continue its COVID-19 vaccine drive into April with approximately 121,000 doses expected to arrive in the island in the coming weeks.

Chairman of the National Health Fund (NHF) Howard Mitchell on Wednesday announced that approximately 75,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the African Medical Support Platform (AMSP) are expected in the island in the next five days.

According to Mitchell, 20,000 doses of Moderna from commercial sources are expected to arrive in Jamaica two to three weeks later, along with another 26,000 doses of AstraZeneca after.

“These shipments totalling 121,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines should ensure the NHF’s ability to distribute vaccines through April into May 2021, until the supply chain for COVID-19 vaccine stabilises,” said Mitchell in a release.

He said these supplies are a part of vaccines negotiated by the Government of Jamaica last year under the two international vaccine purchasing agreements from COVAX, under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the AMSP, which was established by the African Union member states.

“Under these agreements, Jamaica has been allocated sufficient vaccines to inoculate one and a half million residents. In order to achieve herd immunity, the island still needs to secure a further one million doses of double-dose vaccines or five hundred thousand single dose vaccines,” said Mitchell.

The NHF chairman pointed out that among the challenges faced in securing COVID-19 vaccines for Jamaica are issues surrounding production, as the manufacturers face difficulties in raw material supplies and transportation logistics.

“Global cargo space shortages also make it difficult to predict delivery times and serve to delay the movement of cargo across different jurisdictions. Further, the global demand for COVID-19 vaccines is currently as much as five times the rate of production and the larger, wealthier countries have secured most of the early production,” said Mitchell.

He added: “Notwithstanding these and other difficulties, Jamaica, through the concerted efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the NHF, and with the goodwill and support of our African colleagues and the WHO, is managing to obtain further vaccine supplies from several sources to allow us to continue the roll-out of our inoculation plan.

Mitchell said the NHF estimates that the difficult market conditions will begin to ameliorate within the next two months.

“In the intervening period the NHF team and the other ministries and agencies involved in securing COVID-19 vaccines will continue our strenuous efforts to maintain a steady supply of the vaccines for our residents and to achieve greater predictability of transportation and delivery,” said Mitchell as he indicated that the NHF will provide regular updates to the public on efforts to source vaccines.

In the meantime, the health ministry has received 20 coolers to help in its vaccination drive. Lifespan Spring Water Company has heeded a call by the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) for private businesses to support the vaccination drive by donating items to outfit vaccination centres across the island.

The brand recently handed over the 20 coolers to the ministry.

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