First vaccine shipment to arrive on March 8

I unfortunately missed the press briefing on the COVID-19 vaccine plan, logistics etc. hosted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness this week. I need to catch up. There has been so much discussion about vaccines – what, when, who, how, should the Governor General be one of those first receiving it, and all sorts of other “neither here nor there” issues. In the long run, I don’t think much of it matters very much.

But, let’s face facts: We will not be able to vaccinate a significant percentage of the population, any time soon. And so, what happens meanwhile, in the face of continuously surging numbers of new cases, and deaths every day?

In other words, what is happening on the ground? The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Epidemiologist at the Ministry did warn us, didn’t they – at least six months or so ago? Are we willing to endure thousands more new cases, and hundreds more deaths?

The happy crowd at Tranquility Funeral Home this evening. Mask wearing optional. (Screen grab from JCF video)

It seems clear that we need to go on testing, tracing and isolating – with a vengeance. Let’s not get too distracted by the vaccine issue. And for heaven’s sake – if I was on social media I would put this in all caps and shout! – let’s follow the COVID protocols! I am saying this in the context of a video tweeted by the police of a very large gathering at the Tranquility Funeral Home in downtown Kingston, just this evening – in breach of all the latest protocols and rulings by the Prime Minister.

COVID-19 is a “whole of country” problem. After all, we know it is in almost every community in every parish. Who are we kidding? It’s not a politicians’ problem, it’s not a police problem, it’s not a doctors’ and nurses’ problem, it’s not an elderly problem. It’s a national problem. It’s “all a wi.”

Here is today’s press release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness on the vaccines’ arrival date.

She did warn us: National Epidemiologist, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr. (Photo: Michael Sloley/JIS)

New arrival date for COVID-19 vaccine shipment from India

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been advised that Jamaica is now to receive its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, March 8 – a few days later than the March 4 arrival date earlier announced.

The shipment of 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been made possible, courtesy of the generosity of the Government of India with whom Jamaica enjoys a long diplomatic relationship, and from whom the updated arrival information was recently received.

This first batch is to be followed by the March 11 arrival of 14,400 doses of the vaccine, procured under the COVAX Facility – a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual COVID-19 vaccines. Another 1.8 million doses, procured under a deal with the African Medical Supplies Platform, is to follow.

The vaccination of Jamaicans is expected to begin 48 hours after the arrival of the first shipment of vaccines on Monday, guided by the principles of human well-being, equal respect, national equity, legitimacy and reciprocity.

This is with the goal to reduce the death and disease burden associated with COVID-19; ensure non-discriminatory practices are incorporated in the allocation of vaccines; develop appropriate immunization deployment strategy and distribution infrastructure; employ the best available science and expertise; and protect those who bear significant additional risks and burden of COVID-19, including frontline health care workers.

The first phase of the island’s vaccination efforts targets key populations, notably Government officials, health care workers, the elderly, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, as well as schools, the Department of Correctional Services and the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency.

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