Jamaica’s health authorities are encouraging Jamaicans to take the COVID-19 vaccine when the first shipment arrives on the island within the next two weeks.
Speaking at Thursday evening’s COVID-19 online press briefing, the authorities touted the positive effects that vaccination has had in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
According to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, since the island expanded the immunization programme in 1978 that forced all school children to be vaccinated, polio in 1992, measles in 1991, rubella in 2001 and congenital rubella in 1998 have been eliminated.
She said the vaccination programme was supported by legislation in 1986 with the public health immunization regulations that enabled enforcement.
Bisasor-McKenzie said that the island now vaccinates against more than 10 diseases, with the latest being the HPV vaccine in schools.
“This is a programme that is well embedded in our public health programme. It benefits us as a country well. So, therefore, it is a very good thing that we can offer vaccination to the public. (It is) very useful and the greatest probably public health intervention that there is.
“So this now is a new vaccine that is going to offer us an end to some of the horrors that we are going through with COVID-19. We welcome this and we would encourage everybody that once the opportunity is there to take the vaccine, to take the vaccine,”
According to the Director of Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Melody Ennis, the island is about 80 per cent ready for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
She said the public awareness campaign will be intensified to target the section of the population, which will be in phase one of the vaccination programme.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton said the public awareness programme leading up to the vaccination would be a critical component to stop fear and misinformation.
“Right now, what we are doing is trying to prepare, because now that we know that we will have the vaccines, the issue is how do we prepare the public to appreciate the value of having the vaccine as a critical response to COVID and to overcome some of the challenges, the fears, misunderstanding, misinformation also, and that the government is committed to doing that and we will be doing more of it in the weeks and months ahead,” Tufton said.