‘It’s not over yet’
From left: Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton talks with High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica Emina Tudakovic; United Nations Children's Fund Acting Country representative, Vicente Teran; Canada's Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan; and Pan American Health Organisation director of health emergencies, Dr Ciro Ugarte, during the launch of Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity at the International Seabed Authority on Friday. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

CONCERNED about the lack of adherence to COVID-19 measures, health officials are reiterating calls for people to practise personal safety, stating that the COVID-19 pandemic is "not over yet".

The calls were made as Jamaica is among 12 countries set to receive a financial boost to push vaccine efforts through Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE) launched on Friday.

Under the project, which will support country-led efforts that enhance COVID-19 vaccine delivery, increase vaccine confidence and generate demand for sustainable health systems, CAD$45 million was donated to Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and CAD$70 million donated to United Nations Children's Fund.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said as Jamaica continues to emphasise the take-up of the COVID-19 vaccines, strengthen routine immunisation programme and primary health care system, the threats of the coronavirus are still present.

"The virus is still a threat and indeed it has to be worrying, that we are seeing an emergence of infection rates, hospitalisation and deaths. Strengthening our routine immunisation programme and the primary health care system or building resilience is a fundamental objective and from that perspective we are very grateful for this programme," said Tufton.

"It is fundamental because COVID has taught us that we are fighting against not just a virus but either ignorance of the importance of immunisation or downright resistance because of a lack of understanding or otherwise of how critical that is to human development report," he said.

Noting that while Jamaica's positivity rate is not as high as other countries, we are still moving in the wrong direction as the COVID-19 positivity, which was 4.5 per cent before the Christmas period, increased to 6.5 per cent at the end of December.

"We are keeping a close eye on it but again it is a challenge which we have to champion. COVID-19 therefore remains a threat and we must take advantage of the tools that helps to utilise that threat and as we all agree, vaccination represents such. We need to continue to renew our message, target specific populations, re-educate health workers and equip them with the knowledge and resources to reach more persons and save more lives," said Tufton.

At the same time, director of health emergencies at PAHO Dr Ciro Ugarte echoed a similar concern, pointing to a surge in cases in the Americas.

"It's not over yet. Everybody wants to get out of COVID, but just last month, in Americas we had a surge of a number of cases and deaths that we haven't seen in previous months. Increase was 28 per cent of new cases and another 46 per cent in new deaths compared to the previous months," said Ugarte.

He said the surge in cases is worrying, as people fail to apply the knowledgeable learned throughout the COVID-19 experiences.

"This is worrisome because we should have learnt many of the lessons that the pandemic showed us and those are the type of challenges we need to look at and probably need to assess with our capacity, the capacity of the countries and the capacity of organisations to deal with these emergencies. Many people are less vaccinated for the seasons that we use to have a higher coverage, so this is also another challenge," he said.

Brittny Hutchinson

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