South-South partnership plus the longer-term challenges of COVID-19Saturday, April 10, 2021
A shipment of 75,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which arrived Thursday as a gift from the Africa Medical Supplies Platform and the Republic of South Africa provides yet more evidence of South-South cooperation at work.
By all means this country must keep faith with its rich northern neighbours and trading partners. But under no circumstances should Jamaica and sister countries in the Caribbean neglect their relationship, nurtured down the decades, with the governments and people of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Jamaica and its Caribbean neighbours, all with a history of slavery and colonial domination, have much in common with others in the less developed South and we dare not forget it.
We are reminded that Thursday's gift has brought the quantity of AstraZeneca vaccines arriving in Jamaica over recent weeks — either bought or donated — to 139,400 doses.
Readers will recall that the first shipment of 50,000 doses arrived as a gift from India in March. A second batch of 14,400 cases, which was also delivered last month, came through the World Health Organization's COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access) facility which is intended for middle-income and poor countries.
We are being told by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that another shipment of 50,000 vaccines is expected to come via the COVAX facility in the next two weeks.
We note that the supplies from Africa will boost the drive — described as a “blitz” — to vaccinate 50,000 Jamaicans, including the elderly (over 60 years old) during a four-day period between Saturday and Tuesday.
It seems to us that the minister's plan to, as much as possible, seek access to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes sense. The current need for vaccinated people to return weeks later for a second jab is cumbersome at best.
Dr Tufton has reiterated that he expects the arrival of vaccines to increase substantially in the coming months. This, as those countries which have been securing huge amounts to satisfy their own populations see less need to hoard, thereby easing demand.
If that holds true, it seems reasonable to believe that by late 2021 Jamaicans will be looking optimistically towards herd immunity from COVID-19.
By then too, Jamaicans, like others worldwide, will have learnt far more about the longer-term effects of the illness.
We are told that not only physical ailments but serious mental and neurological issues could turn out to be long-term after-effects for some people.
One study originating in France, published last month, said one in three people hospitalised with COVID-19 suffer worrying difficulties, including multiple organ problems and poor mental health.
Indeed, since the onset of the disease last year, Jamaican mental health practitioners have been warning of the dangers as people battle anxiety, depression and extreme irritability as a result of the COVID-19 threat and related lockdowns and curfews.
Jamaica, let's not forget, already has a significant — if often suppressed — mental health problem.
Here is a major factor to consider, as Jamaicans confront the seemingly increased frequency of violence and barbarism against our women and children.
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