Jamaica’s front line workers are to begin receiving the COVID-19 jab as early as late February.
Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton made the disclosure during a sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday (February 2 ) where he revealed that the country was able to secure its first batch of vaccines sooner than expected, noting that the shipment was to arrive in mid-February.
“ I rise to share the latest information on the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country. We have been advised yesterday, last evening, by the COVAX facility that the country is set to receive between 146,400 and possibly up to 249,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines by the middle of February 2021. That’s this month,” Tufton said.
“This means that some 125,000 Jamaicans or up to 125,000 Jamaicans could receive vaccines during the months, or the latter part of February into March, this is 2021,” added Tufton.
If delivered as promised, Tufton shared that front line workers, including nurses and doctors, among those in the elderly population (60 years and older) would be among the first to get the jab.
Tufton further shared that if additional supplies under the COVAX facility are received, the government intends to make those available through the public health system.
Prior to receiving the vaccines, Tufton noted that the country must action an Indemnity and liability framework.
“There are several steps that we must action as Jamaica prepares to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, among them having the necessary indemnity and liability frameworks in place in order to complete the agreement directly with AstraZeneca, as well as, finalizing other procurement matters with the COVAX facility’s management,” said Tufton.
Tufton said that despite the arrivals of the vaccine, this does not mean Jamaicans can disregard the COVID-19 protocols.
According to the health minister, the first batch of vaccines would not provide the level of protection (herd immunity) necessary to alleviate the threat of the virus.
Given the need to have herd immunity, which would require more Jamaicans getting the COVID-19 jab, Tufton said that the country had sought to explore other options, and has been in dialogue with five countries.
“ It was raised, by I think the Opposition Leader, a few sittings ago that the 16% would certainly give us some protection, but not give us the level of protection, the herd immunity, that we seek. And I just want to reassure him and the country that we are pursuing other options to support or compliment the COVAX facility,” said Tufton
“ We have begun work in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to this effect. We have been in discussion, Madam Speaker and colleagues, with five countries and one additional facility, all of which are at an advanced stage of vaccine development,” added Tufton.