New vaccine blitz targets 50,000

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has set an ambitious target of administering 50,000 COVID-19 vaccinations over the next four days to teachers, people aged 60 and older, and those in the specified categories who missed their first opportunity to take the jab.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton made an urgent appeal to these groups to take advantage of the islandwide blitz being staged by the ministry. Two blitzes were previously held at the National Arena in St Andrew targeting people 75 years and older.

He advised that 44 vaccination sites are to be opened, and that people will be allowed free passage by the security forces, with the required documents, and/or identification, in light of the day and a half lockdown set for tomorrow and Sunday.

Addressing the ministry’s weekly virtual ‘COVID Conversations’ yesterday, Dr Tufton said people can contact the vaccination centres through the ministry’s ONELOVE (888-663-5683) toll free line, make appointments on the ministry’s website, or turn up at the nearest vaccination centre.

“This is truly a national effort, irrespective of class, colour, or creed, or political leaning; it is about life… we are asking, we are pleading, we are encouraging a unified approach. Help those who can’t help themselves, help them to get registered, help to bring them out,” he stressed.

The health minister said political representatives, parish councils, the Church, and the electoral office have all been engaged as part of the effort to get as many people as possible to register and show up. He also said primary health-care facilities have been directed to concentrate almost all their efforts on the vaccination process over the four days.

The other categories of people who may participate in the blitz are those employed to Jamaica Customs; the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency; and the tourism sector.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association Clifton Reader welcomed the move to include workers in the sector. He said that with North America moving quickly to vaccinate its population, visitors will want to travel again, but are expected to favour destinations which have a high vaccine take-up. He said the sector could turn out about 15,000 people for the blitz.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie stressed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, notwithstanding reports out of Europe of adverse conditions in some people after taking the vaccine.

She explained that it is customary for countries to report potential adverse effects following immunisation and that, while this does not mean such events are related to the vaccine, it must be investigated. She stressed that the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t necessarily associated with the increased risk of blood clots and low blood platelets that have been reported in some 222 people across a handful of countries in the Europe.

Dr Bisasor McKenzie pointed out that this number is out of 34 million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and stressed that these are very rare events. She noted that the WHO has emphasised that, although it is plausible that these events could be linked to the vaccine, this hasn’t been confirmed, and additional specialised studies are needed to do so.

As of Wednesday, 47,700 Jamaicans had been vaccinated and there have been no reports of blood clots or low platelets, the CMO stated. Up to Wednesday, Jamaica had recorded 41,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Of that number, 18,566 patients have recovered and 646 have died.

Yesterday the Ministry of Health and Wellness received 75,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the African Medical Supplies Platform, which are to be used in the four-day vaccine blitz planned for the weekend through to Tuesday. This brings the number of doses Jamaica has received so far to 139,400.

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