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PM ready for his jab as COVID-19 vaccines arrive


WITH Jamaica finally in receipt of its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, which was delivered yesterday as a gift from India, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has expressed eagerness to receive his shot in the arm but has insisted that front line health workers remain the priority.

Health care workers will begin their vaccination tomorrow.

At Norman Manley Airport in Kingston yesterday, Holness told the Jamaica Observer that he was “very happy” and could not “wait to get” the vaccine for himself.

“I am sure that there are hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who are equally as eager as me, or probably more. Be reminded, however, that it is only 50,000 [doses] so we cant vaccinate everyone [now]. We will start with our doctors and nurses on the front line and then we move to the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] and JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force], and then to persons who are 60 and over. We are very serious about maintaining the order of priority because what we wouldn’t want is for people to lose faith in what we have said is the principle of distribution. Every Jamaican must have faith that there is a process and they will get the vaccine in a fair and timely fashion,” the prime minister stated.

Also eager about getting the vaccine for herself and family was Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith. But, she too was insistent that the distribution schedule has to be followed.

“I am ready; my husband, my parents are ready and my family is ready. We just have to wait our turn,” she told the Observer.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has been working very closely with the National Health Fund and the Ministry of Health and Wellness to ensure that whatever resources are required in terms of governmental support or procurement support that the appropriate discussions are happening, and where political representation is required at the highest level, that that is happening. We have been doing our best. Even the great country of Japan only started their programme last week. Vaccines are not a shelf item. There is an extremely complex dynamic out there. What we need to focus on is that we will start this week,” Johnson Smith said.

Johnson Smith further alluded to the fact that India, where the 50, 000 vaccines came from, only started domestic vaccination officially on March 1.

“Today is March 8, so I think it important for us to contextualise. We are making sure we take the safest and most effective actions in the interest of the Jamaican population. We have very strong relations with the Government of India. It was only last week that they handed over of five tonnes [of] medical equipment, including personal protective equipment.”

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told journalists that more than 14,000 doses of vaccines, which are part of the COVAX facility, would arrive in Jamaica on March 11.

“We are ready in the field. We have done a few trial runs and you will see and hear more about the delivery as of Wednesday this week. As far as we know, the 14,000 doses of vaccines [from COVAX] are on schedule, which will give us at least 64,000 [doses] in the month of March with a priority group to be targeted. It will also allow us to move through a learning curve and therefore develop an enhanced process so that when larger amounts come in, we can deliver more efficiently,” said Tufton.

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