PNP gives gov't 'failing grade' for COVID-19 vaccine procurementWednesday, February 24, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding has given the government a failing grade, in its COVID-19 vaccine procurement system and has accused the Andrew Holness led administration of "gross negligence" in its handling of the matter.
During a Peoples National Party (PNP) press conference to discuss the pandemic and other national issues on Tuesday, Golding complained that the Opposition was being excluded from important discussions and committees set up to execute the procurement process, namely a vaccine commission set up by the Ministry of Health last year, despite the party expressing interest.
He voiced concern that while the rest of the world has already began rolling out COVID-19 vaccine programmes to their citizens, Jamaica was lagging behind.
Golding took Prime Minister Andrew Holness to task, for not using all his power to secure enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 in Jamaica in 2021, which the Opposition Leader said poses a threat to the economic future of the island.
To achieve herd immunity, Golding pointed out that at least 70 per cent of the population would have to be vaccinated, which would be roughly two million Jamaicans. He suggested that at the rate the government was going, the 16 per cent vaccination target for 2021 may be in danger of being achieved.
"It remains the prime minister's job to use all his powers, influence and network to procure an adequate supply of vaccines for the country. There is no task that is more important to Jamaica's recovery, survival and future, than this right now. Jamaica should be leveraging all international relationships and friends to get this done. We are late out the blocks, but we must get organised and do whatever we can to protect our people," Golding said, adding that the government has allowed COVID-19 to get out of control and therefore must ramp up vaccination as quickly as possible.
Golding added, that government had "put all its eggs in one basket" by banking heavily on receiving vaccines from Covax and not exploring other options.
"It turns out they were doing nothing to try and source vaccines for the country. Instead, government put all its eggs in one basket, the Covax facility, only to tell us in January that their target for vaccination was a paltry 16 per cent of the population for all of 2021, beginning mid-February. That has not happened. I and others pointed out that this was entirely unsatisfactory, as Jamaica needs herd immunity to have any chance of economic recovery and a return to normal life without COVID. It is only very recently that government has started to scramble to source additional vaccines. Other countries have secured orders of supply and have started to roll out their vaccination programme. Jamaica is very late and money is not the problem. The budget just tabled has $6 billion to pay for sufficient vaccines to achieve herd immunity," Golding said, before recommending that Holness set up and lead a high-level task force that would take charge of procuring vaccines, with help from a chief executive officer, who would operate as a Czar and who would provide weekly reports to the nation on its progress.
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