Relief and challenges in the fight to tame COVID-19Friday, March 19, 2021
There was a global, collective sigh of relief yesterday following news that the European Union's (EU) medicines regulator, European Medicines Agency (EMA), had done its investigation and concluded that the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe for use.
There was worry over recent days after 13 EU countries 'paused' use of the vaccine following reports that a few vaccinated people had developed blood clots.
As it has turned out, we are told that such cases are no more than would normally occur in the general population.
In fact, the EU probe is said to have shown 37 reports of blood clots in 17 million people vaccinated in the EU and Britain up to March 8. That was said to be a lower figure than occurs naturally.
And, while the experts will continue to pay close attention because of the rarity and severity of a few cases of blood clots, we are told that the recommendation is for vaccinations to continue full speed ahead since the benefits outweigh any negatives by a long way.
In Jamaica, the continuing alarming surge in COVID-19 cases across the country — which at last count yesterday was 33,366 with 511 deaths — means there is no time to lose.
The burden of stress, grief, and extreme socio-economic fallout from fear, sickness and death triggered by the novel coronavirus grows daily here.
Only yesterday came news of the passing of an elect of the people, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Fairy Hill Division in Portland Eastern, Mr Derron Wood, yet another victim of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness tells us that it expects to get close to 875,000 vaccine doses by the end of May, and that 65 per cent of the Jamaican population should be vaccinated in a year's time.
If anything, the crisis requires even more urgency than that. As if the overwhelming of hospitals and health services by the large numbers of COVID-19 patients, and related pressure on fatigued staff weren't enough, there came news over recent days of a severe shortage of oxygen.
We are told that IGL, Jamaica's sole supplier of medical oxygen, has reported an almost 500 per cent increase in demand for medical oxygen at some hospitals over the last three weeks. We hear that many hospitals that would previously require deliveries twice a week now need daily deliveries, and others multiple deliveries in a day.
Mr Peter Graham, the company's managing director, is reported as saying that, “Even importation has been difficult, as there is a global shortage and high demand for oxygen in many jurisdictions…”
And we note another challenge with the authorities investigating “missing” COVID-19 doses at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Jamaica. Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton assures us that an ongoing audit will account for all vaccines used.
And from overseas came the alarming news yesterday that a shipment of supposed vaccines intended for Honduras, labelled as the Sputnik brand which is manufactured in Russia, has been confirmed as fake after interception in Mexico.
That should serve as early warning — if it were ever needed — for the Jamaican authorities that they must be on their 'Ps' and 'Qs' as they get themselves ready for mass importation of vaccines in the months ahead.
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