Tufton points to progress of vaccination programme

Having received an additional 75,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton suggested that Jamaicans should be proud of the progress of the inoculation programme as some countries are yet to get theirs started.

Yesterday’s delivery, a gift from the Africa Medical Supply platform and the Government of South Africa, brought the number of AstraZeneca vaccines either bought or donated to the island to 139,400 doses.

Jamaica received its first shipment of 14,400 doses as a gift from India in March. The second batch, also delivered last month, was procured by the Government through the World Health Organization’s COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access) facility.

A fourth shipment of 50,000 vaccines is expected to come via the COVAX facility in the next two weeks, Dr Tufton said yesterday.

“We do have in line a series of deliveries which will allow us to continue the programme, and even though the quantities may appear small, the reality is that we are better off than other countries that have none at all. We still believe that in another month the vaccines will be made a lot more available when the market frees up. We anticipate larger amounts in short order,” the minister told journalists at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

“This vaccine is coming from Ghana and is a gift from the Government and people of South Africa and the Africa Medical Supply platform, which is an equivalent organisation to COVAX. We are very grateful for the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and also the National Health Fund, chaired by Howard Mitchell, and, of course, the prime minister for initiating and engaging in a fairly lengthy dialogue and leveraging the relationships that we have to have gotten this 75,000 doses,” Dr Tufton said.

“Our intention is to utilise the vaccines in the major blitz we have this weekend. You would recall that we have had two Saturdays of the blitz at the National Arena.”

He said the Government is negotiating terms to procure Johnson & Johnson’s single-jab COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are now in deep conversations with manufacturers to see if we can change out to Johnson & Johnson, which is a single-dose vaccine. The reason for that is that having a single dose is far better to administer than having someone go and then having to come back. We are already in line to get some Johnson & Johnson,” he said.

“The AstraZeneca allows for a second dose to be administered eight to 12 weeks after the first dose. We should start administering second doses sometime in early May,” he added.

During this weekend’s blitz, scheduled for various sites islandwide from Saturday to Tuesday, the Government is hoping to vaccinate 50,000 Jamaicans.

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