Jamaica targets 440,000 for COVID-19 vaccines

Jamaica targets 440,000 for COVID-19 vaccines

Supplies likely from Cuba, India and China, outside of COVAX facility

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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IN addition to efforts to obtain vaccines under the COVAX facility, the Jamaican Government yesterday announced that it will be conducting bilateral meetings with several countries to include India, China and Cuba as it seeks out other arrangements to access additional safe supplies for Jamaicans.

Currently there are three vaccines that have been fully approved for use with others in various stages of the development process.

Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the developments in China, which has four vaccines that are near approval stage, India which has two vaccines that are at the last stages of approval, and Cuba which has four vaccines, one of which is at phase three of the trial stage, are of note.

“Based on the pace of development and the need to safeguard the population, the Government, through Cabinet, has also agreed to begin to explore Jamaica's access to safe vaccines outside of the COVAX facility. Additionally, agreement has been made to explore bilateral arrangements with countries that have indicated their willingness to partner with Jamaica to ensure the safe vaccination of our population,” the health minister said.

Accordingly, he said his ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, “will begin the process of exploring how we can leverage our international engagements to secure additional supply access for safe vaccines”.

In the meantime, through the COVAX facility, the Government has been able to negotiate vaccine dosages prices of US$10.55, reduced from the going average price of US$35.00.

This price is negotiated for 16 per cent of the population and represents Phase 1 of Jamaica's vaccination roll-out plan.

The first batch of vaccines, said Tufton, are due in April 2021 and have been increased from an original one per cent to five per cent, a total of approximately 292,000 doses.

He said under the first phase of the programme priority will be given to health-care personnel, people 60 years and older, members of the Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Department of Correctional Services, employees of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, infirmaries, members of Parliament, senators, parish council representatives as well as residents and staff of nursing homes and those in penal institutions.

This, said the minister, represents approximately 440,000 people.

“The vaccination of the elderly and front-line workers who are most at risk is crucial to the overall efficacy of the programme. Through vaccination of the elderly, we will immediate cauterise the number of persons who have negative outcomes due an infection of COVID-19 and by vaccinating our front-line workers, greater levels of service delivery can be realised through the reduction of their risk profile, based on infection,” the health minister stated.

As at January 11, 2021, Jamaica recorded 13,760 COVID-19 cases, 123 of those were reported up to Monday, in addition to 315 deaths, two of those being recorded within the same 24-hour period.

In the meantime, Tufton said the results of efforts to curtail the spread of the virus especially over the Christmas and New Year's celebrations are still being assessed.

“We still continue our rigorous surveillance of communities and special settings, such as homes for the elderly and infirmaries, to ensure early detection and mitigation. The Government is still seized with the realities of hospital management and continues to use every measure within our toolbox to ensure that our health system does not become overwhelmed,” he told the House.

In the meantime, Minister Tufton said while the country was still in the midst of the pandemic, indications are pointing to some success in the management of the spread of the disease and its impact on the health system. “We have, through the strong support of the health-care workers on the ground, not seen the buckling of the health system under the pressures of COVID-19. We have also maintained, over time, infection rates below 2.5 per 100,000 as well as positivity rates of between eight and 10 per cent.

“When compared with international benchmarks, Jamaica can be said to be one of the countries that have been able to manage well the risks that are associated with the pandemic,” the health minister noted.

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