Great need for more J'cans to get vaccinatedWednesday, August 04, 2021
For many, if not most Jamaicans there has been welcome relief over recent days from COVID-19-related stress due to the exploits of our athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Yet, as much as we all celebrate the triumphs of double gold medal winner Mrs Elaine Thompson-Herah and company, we know that the harsh realities posed by the pandemic have gone nowhere. We, like the rest of the world, must cope as best we can, even as the euphoria from the Tokyo Games — which end this weekend — gradually fade away.
Authorities everywhere have identified mass anti-virus vaccination of people as the easiest and quickest way to return societies to a state approaching normality after the prolonged turmoil since the pandemic took hold in early 2020.
In the case of Jamaica and fellow less developed countries, a vaccine shortage, caused in large measure by the insistence of the rich, developed world to look out for themselves first, has caused huge problems.
Repeated calls, not least from the World Health Organization (WHO), for vaccines to be distributed globally in an equitable, structured way, have gone largely unheeded. So that the rich and powerful are pushing ahead to vaccinate their entire populations, even as some countries are yet to receive doses to attempt inoculation of their most vulnerable, including the sick and elderly, as well as health and other essential workers.
In Jamaica's case, only about 10 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so far, aided by the very recent arrival of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — a donation from Britain.
The expectation is that such shipments will accelerate over the next few weeks and months which would facilitate the vaccination of the great majority of Jamaicans in a relatively short time — the much-desired, so-called herd immunity, being the ultimate target.
The current situation is dire. At the start of this week the Ministry of Health reported that the island registered 342 new COVID-19 cases, a positivity rate of 30 per cent, and confirmed six deaths over the 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday.
Alarmingly, the latest word is that some hospitals are again running out of beds for COVID-19 patients.
It means the Government may have no choice but to extend — in short order — curfew and other restrictions under the Disaster Risk Management Act with increasingly catastrophic consequences for an already reeling economy.
Disturbingly, a return to face-to-face school may not be possible in September in an environment of extensive learning loss for tens of thousands of children since March 2020.
Given all of the above, this newspaper views with alarm, reports of a continuing high level of vaccine hesitancy among Jamaicans.
Scientists say, and available evidence suggests, that vaccinated people are the ones least affected by the novel coronavirus and its variants.
This is no time for dilly-dallying or wishing and hoping. All those with influence in their communities including political representatives, justices of the peace, teachers, pastors, business operators, youth leaders, et al, must, as a matter of priority, seek to get people to the vaccine centres once the doses are available.
The country's future depends on it.
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