Vaccines have been part of public health landscape for decades

Jamaicans are being urged to get immunised against the novel coronavirus as soon as allowed, instead of gambling with possibly suffering the worst effects of the deadly respiratory disease, should they become infected.

The first nurse in the island to take the COVID-19 jab last week, Marcia Thomas Yetman, says the process was painless and that there is nothing to fear.

“I can tell you that it is painless. I am one of the health care workers who is afraid of injections, so when I got mine I was really very surprised that it was painless. It was really very pleasant,” she shared at a COVID Conversations briefing hosted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness last week.

The public health nurse, who is also an immunisation officer, stressed that vaccines have proven safe, and have been a part of the public health landscape for decades, without issue.

“As a matter of fact, the same manufacturer of the COVI-Shield that we are administering to persons for protection against COVID-19, they supply us with several of the vaccines that are administered to our children, so I have full confidence in the vaccine,” she stressed, adding that it is fully established that immunisation is one of the most reliable ways of preventing some conditions.

“I would encourage everyone, please, go and take your COVID-19 vaccine when you can get it. It is much cheaper, much less painful than going and being exposed to COVID-19 infection that can result in very terrible complications, hospitalisation and even death,” she said.

“We really want to go back to life as normal as possible…and this is one of the ways we can protect ourselves, get herd immunity and go back to life as we knew it before March 2020. I’m very happy and I’m looking forward to my second dose of the vaccine,” Thomas Yetman said.

The first person over 60 years old to take the vaccine, and a champion for the well-being of the elderly in Jamaica, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, said she, too, was able to return to work after being vaccinated, and had no reactions to write home about.

She emphasised the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for the older population, which total approximately 350,000. Professor Eldemire Shearer said apart from the higher risk of demising from the disease, there has been tremendous depression and anxiety among the elderly who have been restricted or starved of socialisation over the past year, given the current stay-at-home orders for that cohort.

“This is a group of people who have been on stay-at-home order for 12 months…the social isolation, the loneliness. When this started families pitched in, but then you have stay-at-home for school, and families have been stressed,” she noted.

Professor Eldemire Shearer said in addition to COVID-related deaths among the elderly, many usually are left with respiratory-related symptoms and have longer hospital stays.

“So this vaccine is the start of giving our older people back their everyday life,” she stated.

She said the elderly are eager to take the vaccine, with hundreds of requests waiting. “I believe the take-up is going to be high in this age group. They have paid attention to the stay-at-home [order], they are petrified of COVID, they don’t want to die and, therefore, for them this is going to be about going to their regular appointments, it’s about going back to church, it’s about going to the neighbourhood gathering, it’s about getting back their lives,” she said.

Another batch of 14,400 vaccines arrived in the island Monday afternoon. The health ministry has advised that only health care workers, members of the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force are being vaccinated this week.

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