Tue | Sep 28, 2021

More young people taking the COVID-19 vaccine, says Tufton

Published:Sunday | August 1, 2021 | 1:35 AMMark Titus - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Ian Allen/Photographer 
Dr Kapel Dowe administers the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to 18-year-old Kimberley Hamilton during yesterday’s vaccination blitz at the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre in St Andrew.
Ian Allen/Photographer Dr Kapel Dowe administers the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to 18-year-old Kimberley Hamilton during yesterday’s vaccination blitz at the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre in St Andrew.

Encouraged by the number of persons who turned up to be inoculated across the country yesterday, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is now eyeing an ambitious 800,000 additional Jamaicans receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, which would take Jamaica beyond the one million mark by the end of September.

“What I have seen across the locations visited is very encouraging, especially the young people coming out to receive their vaccination and I want to encourage others to do the same thing,” Minister Tufton told The Sunday Gleaner. “While we were targeting 300,000 by the end of September, I strongly believe that we can inoculate an additional 800,000 to what has already been achieved.”

According to the Ministry of Health & Wellness, as at July 23, 2021, some 178,728 (6.1 per cent) Jamaicans have received the first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, while another 122,774 (4.1 per cent) have been fully vaccinated.

They have yet to tally the figures from yesterday’s islandwide blitz that saw persons getting vaccinated from the donation of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 drug the island received from the United Kingdom on Friday. The donation is part of the UK’s effort to deliver nine million COVID-19 vaccines around the world to help tackle the pandemic.

The islandwide vaccination blitz continues for the rest of the week.

In St James, the health department was prepared to administer the first dose to 700 persons, but by early afternoon reported that they will exceed their target.

“We have sufficient vaccines in the parish until Thursday of next week, so even if we use up all we have here in the parish, our team is on standby to drive into Kingston for more,” said Lennox Wallace, parish manager, St James health services.

“The turnout has been good. We are seeing the younger age group. We are happy for the response, we are in full supply here, all they have to do is come out; nobody will be turned away.”

Wallace also revealed that a special facility is being established at the Mount Alvernia High School to facilitate teachers in the parish.

POSITIVE RESPONSE FROM TEACHERS

The Sunday Gleaner team caught up with Dr Mitchell Pinnock, director for region four of the Ministry of Education at the Type 5 Clinic in Montego Bay, who said that the response from the approximately 4,000 public school teachers in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland was positive.

“My teachers are very excited about going back to school and so they just want to get more information on the vaccine and any likely side effects,” said Pinnock. “I am here to ensure that my teachers are facilitated in a timely manner, so they can get the vaccine whenever and wherever they want to have it.”

In Clarendon, Medical Officer of Health Dr Kimberly Campbell reported that there was steady turnout of senior citizens, public and private workers, but appealed to the teachers in the parish to take the vaccine to protect themselves and the school population, arguing that this will help to ensure the smooth start of the new academic year in September. Only 10,000 of 247,000 Clarendon residents have been vaccinated so far.

In Kingston and S Andrew, Dr Denise Eldemire-Shearer, who is responsible for the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre, indicated that she has seen a “tremendously positive” response from persons, especially those between the ages of 18 and 30. Over 1,000 persons registered for yesterday’s vaccination blitz at the centre. Thus, she believes that the daily target of 1,500 persons will be met.

The same could not be said for the National Arena vaccination centre. Errol Greene, regional director for the South East Regional Health Authority, expressed his disappointment with the turnout by midday, as only 350 jabs were given even though the daily target was 1,000 persons.

However, Minister Tufton anticipates that despite the rocky start yesterday the week-long drive will go well, as the feedback across the country has been positive.

“Six hours after the announcement, we had about 10,000 Jamaicans who were registered online. That is good. We want to keep that going. This period is going to be the true test of vaccine hesitancy,” stated the minister.

The country is hoping to move full speed ahead to contain a third wave of the virus, with the latest figures showing an overall 52,895 cases, and 1,190 deaths, with a positivity rate of an alarming 24 per cent. There are now 4,365 active COVID-19 cases in Jamaica.

– David Salmon and Cecelia Campbell-Livingston contributed to this story.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com