'CRISIS!' Fitz Jackson laments low take-up of vaccines among JamaicansSunday, December 05, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Member of Parliament for St Catherine South, Fitz Jackson, has described as a “crisis” the fact that less than 20 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated despite the months-long push to get Jamaicans inoculated against COVID-19.
Jamaica has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the Caribbean, a situation that leaves the population vulnerable to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Jackson expressed his frustration while speaking recently in the House of Representatives.
Addressing the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton directly, Jackson said: “You had a target date of March next year for 65 per cent which is the herd immunity level and we're just four months away from that target and we are just 18.6 per cent [on November 30] of [persons] totally vaccinated”.
“We're in trouble, serious trouble,” Jackson declared.
The veteran Member of Parliament told Tufton that it was little comfort for politicians to speak about how much they have done when the take-up rate for vaccines was so low.
“While we've made all that effort on both sides, we're in serious trouble and it's nothing to clap ourselves about,” said Jackson. He questioned what else can be done to alleviate the crisis.
“What I want us to do is to [state]...what else can be done because something must be done because we're in a crisis. That is what I want the engagement to be about, but don't get into patting ourselves on the back about how well we've done when we're this far behind because the danger of that minister is that it gives a sense of comfort; that we've done well, that's what bothers me.”
Jackson warned that the country was at serious risk when the vaccine rates are so low. He implored Tufton to indicate what more is being done to get more Jamaicans vaccinated, “to overcome the hesitancy and to overcome the anti-vax disposition that prevails in the country”.
“Because the more we have these [low] numbers, it stifles many things that you have spoken about in the country — the economic resurgence and life for ordinary people,” he stated.
Responding, Tufton said he appreciated Jackson's comments and was willing to take him on in terms of some of the suggestions he had made “because we all have a role to play as you directly pointed out”.
However, Tufton said it was important to recognise the thousands of Jamaicans who have got the vaccine message out, and the vaccines into the arms of Jamaican citizens.
“We will have to continue those efforts. We will have to take the vaccines as we have said before, to communities, we will have to be targeted,” said the health minister. He told the House that he had personally been into communities where persons were being vaccinated as late as 8:00 pm “in the streets literally”.
Tufton shared that there were a number of programmes to reach the indigent and those who are not mobile with the parish health departments conducting home visits.
“We've mobile units and we're adding another six units to the ones that we have. They should be rolling off the lines in another few weeks to go into communities. We're working with the private sector through their outreach…private doctors have been given the opportunity to take up and to offer and to influence their patients,” he said.
Additionally, Tufton said private contractors, including pharmacists, were onboard the vaccine programme.
“And we continue to inform, to educate and to try to persuade,” he said.
“While I fully agree that those efforts cannot ease…I also think that there is a case to be made for personal responsibility in the wider population” he added.