Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, says the number of people to be vaccinated in the second quarter of the year, when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, has increased from one percent of the population to five.
“Initially, it was one percent that we would receive in the second quarter, but this has now increased to five percent and what you will find is that as more vaccines are approved, more manufacturing occurs, and the numbers may change,” she said.
Bisasor-McKenzie, who was speaking at a virtual press conference at the Ministry of Health on the weekend, pointed out that the vaccine is being made available through the COVID-19 Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and that 16 percent of the population will be vaccinated this year.
Jamaica is among the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states whose behalf a down payment has been made by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for equitable access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
About the roll-out of the vaccine in the country, Minister of Health Christopher Tufton had previously explained that the projected schedule is to have a vaccine ready to give to about one percent of the initial 16 percent of the population by April 2021, with the other three percent by mid-2021 and the remaining percentage by the end of 2021.
He further indicated that the intention is to prioritize vaccinating the country’s health workers, who are at a very high risk of acquiring and transmitting the virus, and the older adults, who are among the most vulnerable to have adverse outcomes deaths associated with COVID-19 infection.
In the meantime, Bisasor-McKenzie is reassuring the public that the vaccine that will be approved for use in the country is safe, and there is nothing to fear.
“The development of a vaccine usually takes a long time, but I want you to appreciate the concentration of resources that have been put into the development of these vaccines over the last year, and pretty much what you would have seen done is several years of work that would have been carried out in a short period,” she said.
“So, what you see now is a culmination of those efforts. I want to reassure the public that once the vaccines have been approved and they have been investigated, and we have seen the results of the trials, you are going to have a vaccine that is safe and effective,” the CMO added.
She emphasized that persons must have confidence in the process because “it is essential that especially our vulnerable population be vaccinated as quickly as we can get the vaccines here.”
Meanwhile, field hospitals that are being built on the grounds of the Falmouth Public General Hospital, in the northern parish of Trelawny, and at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Centre, in Kingston, are slated to be completed by the end of January.
This was reported by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dunstan Bryan, who spoke during the virtual press conference.
“We had significant delays because of the rain…and because of the nature of the material and the work that is being done, we were not able to proceed with the implementation until the weather changed, so we have been given assurances that they will be completed by the end of January,” he said.
The two 36-bed facilities are among four field hospitals being established across the island to provide 152 additional bed spaces to facilitate the treatment of persons with COVID-19.