Jamaica starts talks with China, Cuba, and India for COVID vaccines

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Jamaica starts talks with China, Cuba, and India for COVID vaccines

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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JAMAICA has started discussions with China, Cuba, and India about obtaining COVID-19 vaccines from those countries when they become available.Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the Government has met with the respective ambassadors and expressed interest in obtaining the vaccines as Jamaica looks outside of the COVAX facility for additional options.

“These countries are well advanced in the research and clinical trials of their vaccines. Our number one priority remains the safety of our people,” Tufton said at a virtual press briefing yesterday.Head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week expressed grave concern that rich countries had begun to hog COVID-19 vaccine market, sidelining the COVAX facility, which was established to ensure fair access for both rich and poor countries. He said some countries, as parties to the COVAX facility, had reneged on that undertaking and are engaged in bilateral arrangements, jeopardising the global vaccination programme.The Pan American Health Organization said it would be too costly for poor countries on their own to strike deals with developers, and so COVAX was the answer to equitable access.

Commenting on the talks between Jamaica and China, the Chinese embassy in Kingston told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that, with multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates on the market, countries should be able to make their choices on the vaccines independently.“This issue can afford no place for malign competition, let alone the so-called rivalry. We hope and welcome that more doses of safe and effective vaccines will be manufactured at a faster pace by more countries and then provided to more countries to benefit more people,” a spokesperson said.The Chinese Government says it has been cooperating especially with developing countries, and would continue to promote equitable distribution and application of vaccines worldwide.Jamaica is expected to receive its first tranche of vaccines during the first quarter of this year. Dr Tufton said through COVAX, the vaccines that would most immediately be available will be Astra Zeneca and Astra Zeneca/Serum Institute of India. He noted that availability is pending the emergency use listing from the WHO.

The health minister pointed out that this vaccine requires cold chain capacity that Jamaica already has, which will make transportation of the shots “reasonably accommodated”. The next batch of vaccines that is expected to become available through COVAX afterwards is Novavax, from Johnson and Johnson/Jannsen. Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie advised that, according to current information, some of those who are immunised against the coronavirus can still transmit the virus.“So, therefore, persons who are vaccinated are still required to adhere to the protection, prevention and control measures. Remember that not everybody who is vaccinated will not get COVID-19; there is still a percentage of persons who will have the infection,” she said.

She noted that even with the reported 95 per cent efficacy of some vaccines, the remaining five per cent means a significant number of people can contract the virus. The quarantine period therefore remains in effect for all persons entering the island. “We are investigating the information to try to come up with a reasonable period of time that would be able to allow persons afer a certain period has passed after they've gotten the second dose, or fully immunised. Until we have more information, the two-week quarantine period remains in force for persons who have received the vaccine and travel to Jamaica,” the CMO said. Dr Tufton said the ministry has also begun the process of recruiting a communications consultant to lead the process of a public education campaign and start sensitising the public on key vaccination information through the print media and social media.


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