Jamaican vaccine update: Yes, there’s a global shortage and Yes, there is nothing certain about COVID-19

A sort of mild panic seems to have set in among some Jamaicans about obtaining their second dose of AstraZeneca. It has all become a bit muddled over the weekend, as another blitz began. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has repeatedly stated that this weekend would be for the over-50 age group only who are due for their second dose and who have confirmation from the Ministry via text message or phone call. However, there seem to have been some problems at the National Arena in Kingston, which closed early – because, according to the Ministry, a lot of people turned up who didn’t come into that category.

The basic problem is – as Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton explained in Thursday night’s press briefing – “not vaccine hesitation, it’s vaccine access.In other words, stocks are running low and the Ministry is having to prioritize, so it has told some people (especially those under 50) that they will have to wait a bit longer for their second dose. Professor Peter Figueroa has also assured Jamaicans that there is no need to worry, as you can wait for twelve weeks for your second dose of AstraZeneca.

It is as if some Jamaicans are not aware that there remains, after all, a shortage of vaccines worldwide – especially for “less developed” countries like ours. Since last year this has been the case and it has been a problem ever since. This is why the World Health Organization’s Dr. Tedros appears to have far more wrinkles on his forehead and more white hairs than he did a year ago. Even rich, First World Germany is running into all kinds of complications.

What we also need to realize is that (since COVID-19 first arrived) there is nothing – nothing – set in stone. We can expect the unexpected, and we can expect challenges where we thought there would be none. We need to adjust, adapt – and keep ourselves informed. We need to share correct and useful information with each other on social media. Confusing each other in WhatsApp groups and on Twitter doesn’t help.

As usual, we Kingston dwellers believe we are the “center of the Universe” and should be prioritized in all things. The fact is, other parts of the island do need vaccines too, and perhaps especially older people in some rural areas. Yes, I am a Kingston dweller and have the same inbuilt sense of entitlement, I confess!

I also do think the Ministry needs to keep everyone continuously and fully informed on the situation regarding vaccines in an open and transparent way; and that the media can continue to help by putting out accurate and complete information (while at the same time holding the Ministry to account and asking all the right questions of course).

Meanwhile, the Ministry put out two press releases today, attempting to reassure the panickers that yes, we will soon have more vaccines. Can we all take a deep breath, please? It’s too hot for all this stress. Or perhaps it’s the heat that is making us tear our hair out! Please see below…

KINGSTON, Jamaica. Saturday, June 19, 2021: The Ministry of Health and Wellness continued its second dose vaccination blitz today, June 19 at 22 sites across nine parishes. Second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca were administered to persons 50 years and older who are due between Friday, June 18 and Sunday, June 20.

According Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, MP, Minister of Health & Wellness, in commenting on the day’s proceeding said, “from reports received from the sites across the island, the blitz operations ran efficiently for most sites, with some delays and other challenges at the national arena, primarily linked to persons who were not scheduled to be vaccinated turning up at the site.”

As at 3:30 p.m. today, the National Arena had administered 1,132 persons with their second dose.

The second dose blitz operation will continue on Sunday, June 20 across existing sites with the exception of the National Arena which was closed to the public earlier today after reaching maximum capacity. “At about 10am today, we reached full capacity at the National Arena and unfortunately had to announce the closure of the site. Our operations there will be suspended for Sunday, June 20, but other blitz sites across the island will remain open to the public by appointment” Dr. Tufton stated.  

Members of the public from Kingston & St. Andrew, who are due their second dose on Sunday, will be contacted by the Ministry via text and telephone with their new appointment details in the coming week.     

People over 50 years old receiving their second dose of vaccine at the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in St. Ann today. (Photo: Ministry of Health and Wellness)

KINGSTON, Jamaica. Saturday, June 19, 2021: Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, MP is assuring Jamaicans that more vaccine supplies will come in country as negotiations continue with suppliers and donors.

“We are anticipating the receipt of supplies of vaccines shortly, as we have concluded discussions with our suppliers. Persons who are due their second dose will benefit from this allocation and need not worry,” Dr. Tufton noted.

In the meantime Jamaica is also set to benefit from an initial donation of 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that the USA has earmarked for countries around the world. Jamaica is classified as part of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, where donations are anticipated to be distributed starting the end of June.

The Ministry is also anticipating another shipment through the COVAX facility, and its agency, the National Health Fund (NHF) continues to negotiate the purchase of vaccines.

“As soon as we have more specific information, we will more than share same with members of the public”, Dr. Tufton underscored, while encouraging persons to remain patient and calm.

The vaccination blitz operation for the weekend of June 19 and 20 will only focus on persons who are due their second dose and are 50 years and older— the most vulnerable members of the population. Persons under 50 years old who were due, are being deferred the second dose until after this weekend, but are still within the recommended wait period between doses as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A gentleman gets his second vaccination at the Port Antonio High School Vaccination Blitz Site in Portland, today. (Photo: Ministry of Health and Wellness)



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