You’re only considered fully protected 14 days after second dose of vaccine, says CMO

INDIVIDUALS who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine are being cautioned that they are not fully inoculated and should ensure that they take the second dose at the required time, or their levels of protection from the disease could deteriorate severely.

Jamaicans are also being urged not to use their receipt of the first dose of the jab as a ticket to irresponsible behaviours and disregard for the safety and protection protocols that remain in place.

The warning came from Health minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie at Wednesday’s virtual COVID -19 media update.

“It’s important to get the second dose within a period of time to complete the process to give you the maximum protection. Getting the first dose is not justification for deciding that you’re going to resume the parties [and] the gatherings beyond the limits established. In other words, getting the first dose is not a free paper to do as you like. You still have the burden of responsibility to protect yourself; you can still be exposed, you can still get the virus and can still be impacted, but also to protect others,” Dr Tufton stated.

The CMO, at the same time, emphasised that new studies show that after 90-120 days, the 70 per cent overall protection of the vaccine decreases and could decline to as low as 31 per cent if the second dose is not taken.

“There is considerable decrease in the protection that is afforded if you do not get the second dose of the vaccine. You’re only considered to be fully protected 14 days after your second dose, the protection against COVID-19 increases after the first dose and it is best after receiving the second dose approximately eight to 12 weeks after the first dose. It will go up as high as over 80 per cent efficacy,” she explained.

Dr Bisasor McKenzie pointed out that getting vaccinated is a “win win”, as it provides 70 per cent reduction in symptoms. She stressed that while some individuals may still contract the disease, symptoms would be mild and not fatal: “It’s either you don’t get it or if you get it it’s going to be a mild disease,” she remarked, noting that in studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine no one who got infected after vaccination have developed severe disease or died.

And the health minister said 83,828 people were vaccinated during the vaccination blitz this past weekend, making up 60 per cent of the overall 135,473 vaccinated since March. This is some seven per cent of the target of 1.9 million by March 2022, which the ministry is hoping for to secure herd immunity in the population.

He noted that the limited stocks of vaccines that are still available will be administered through the regular vaccine programme, but that in another two weeks more people will be able to take advantage of another upcoming blitz once the country receives the expected 55,000 AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX facility.

Permanent secretary in the ministry, Dunstan Bryan, advised that there is a compensation mechanism in place for persons who have suffered severe outcomes, proven to be caused by the vaccine, but he stressed that at this point that mechanism has not been triggered, as there have been no deaths linked to the vaccine.

“The Government at this point in time has not activated any of its legal arrangements for compensation…there is no recorded death that is attributable to vaccination,” he said.

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