Let us help you, JHTA tells health minister

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) says it is ready, able and equipped to help with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the island.

“We want to partner with you; we have potential distribution centres in all the major tourist regions with commitments from some member hoteliers to provide support for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. We are fully committed to working for Jamaica,” JHTA President Clifton Reader told Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton last Friday at a meeting of JHTA councillors.

Pointing to collaborations led by the Tourism Task Force and the resulting ramping up of testing facilities, inclusive of local laboratories and medical doctors, Reader said apart from providing physical space for vaccine distribution the “JHTA Ambassadors” hotel employees trained in COVID-19 safety and health protocols stand ready to help in sensitising the public about the vaccines for increased uptake.

Referencing a recent JHTA survey among hotel employees, Reader said, “We know that some people still need to be convinced about taking the vaccine. In our survey, 35 per cent of the responders said they would definitely take the vaccine, 42 per cent were undecided and 23 per cent said definitely not. We have the example of a Resilient Corridor that is a major success in the management of COVID-19 and if our ambassadors are activated like we did in teaching communities about the safety protocols, we are certain we could convert most of those undecided to yes. We know you will get the vaccines, minister, we want to help ensure that our people will take it.”

Noting that most hospitals are now close to full capacity with patients, Reader said, “To stem the flow of hospitalisations we need to seriously consider approval of other drug treatments being used successfully overseas, as well as stress the health and safety protocols that have been proving successful in the tourism industry.”

Reader also suggested approaching local celebrities and influencers to help with promoting the vaccines and the health and safety protocols.

Minister Tufton reassured the hoteliers that his ministry, working in tandem with local physicians, was carefully exploring the use of vaccines and drugs sanctioned by the World Health Organization as the safety of Jamaicans is of paramount importance.

He thanked the JHTA for its offer of assistance and committed to working as closely as possible with the association.

Early last month, Tufton had said the Government was advised by the COVAX facility that Jamaica was set to receive between 146,400 and 249,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines by mid- to late-February 2021.

However, last Wednesday, when asked by the Jamaica Observer to give a date for the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, Tufton said he would prefer to wait until it has been loaded on an aircraft en route to Jamaica.

At the time he was on a tour of two locations in Kingston where the vaccines and equipment essential to administering the drug will be stored and dispatched to regional health authorities across the island, before reaching hospitals and health centres.

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