Fri | Sep 24, 2021

COVID vaccines still on schedule for delivery - Tufton

Published:Thursday | May 20, 2021 | 12:07 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter

The shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines committed to Jamaica through the COVAX Facility will still be arriving at the end of the month, despite the decision by the Serum Institute of India to halt supplies to the COVAX Facility until the end of the year.

The decision to halt supplies was made as India grapples with the exponential spread of the coronavirus.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has expressed his understanding of the need for the world’s leading vaccine producers to make such a decision.

“This further demonstrates that vaccine diplomacy focusing on equity of access is critical to overcoming COVID globally and restoring the world to normality,” he told The Gleaner.

Though the cohort of 55,200 doses will not be affected by this move, the overall supply of vaccines through the COVAX Facility will stunt Jamaica’s quest to achieve herd immunity.

Tufton shared that though arrangements are being made with other sources to ease the shortfall, Jamaica will still not receive the quantity needed.

JOHNSON AND JOHNSON VACCINES

Howard Mitchell, chairman of the National Health Fund, told The Gleaner that Jamaica has made arrangements to receive Johnson and Johnson vaccines by late July.

“We are confident that the African Medical Supply Platform will come through because we have a firm commitment from them,” he said. “We hope that once that starts, we would be able to resume momentum without the Indian supply being available.”

With the disruption in Jamaica’s steady supply from the COVAX Facility, the country would come in good luck to be among those slated to receive doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States’ stockpile of 60 million being donated to overseas countries.

However, there have been no updates since Tufton announced the country’s interest in receiving a portion of the vaccines being donated by the US, and Mitchell said he was unable to provide any information on this discussion.

“The National Health Fund is not at this time aware of the specifics of that particular bit of generosity. If that discussion is being held, it is being held at a higher level,” he said.

He added that once the Biden administration will allow it, Jamaica will be proactive in sourcing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The US has set out to vaccinate a third of its population.

According to the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ vaccination update from March 10 to May 11, 2021, only 17.9 per cent of the 80 and over age group has been vaccinated, 22.6 per cent of the 70 to 79 age range, and 15.9 per cent of the 60 to 69 age range.

So far, 146,148 people have received their first dose of the vaccine and 6,999 have returned for their second jab.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com