With the vast majority of Jamaicans opposed to mandatory vaccination against COVID-19, according to the findings of a recent Bill Johnson-Mello TV poll, Opposition Spokesperson on Health Dr Morais Guy says the omicron variant of the virus that swept through the population in an infectious fourth wave of the pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise for Jamaica.
According to the poll findings, the majority of Jamaicans — 67 per cent —are against children five to 17-years-old being forced to take the vaccine, while 60 per cent are opposed to adults 18 years and older being mandated to do so.
Roughly 23 per cent of the Jamaican population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 which places the country ahead of only Haiti in terms of the percentage of the population that is inoculated.
With these low vaccination levels and a significant majority of Jamaicans against a mandatory jab, Guy said “omicron is almost a blessing in disguise in that a significant number of persons in the country would have contracted omicron without being part of the official numbers — without them knowing it either”.
The medical doctor noted that many persons may have thought they had contracted the flu during the omicron surge when in fact it could have been COVID-19. Scientists have now concluded that immunity is built up after a person contracts the coronavirus and that an unvaccinated person who was infected with COVID-19 is more protected than a person who is only vaccinated. However, they state that there is greater immunity if a person who contracts COVID-19 is also vaccinated.
“Those persons with the flu, which may have been COVID but were not tested and may have contributed to the spread of the virus in the population and you're developing natural immunity so it is almost a blessing in disguise,” Guy emphasised while speaking Sunday with the Jamaica Observer.
The Opposition spokesman said the Government must undertake a survey to determine the number of Jamaicans who have developed antibodies to the coronavirus to get a better picture of the level of immunity in the population.
When contacted by the Observer, Johnson stated that 32 per cent of respondents to the poll expressed that all Jamaicans 18 and over should be mandated to take the vaccine. However, 60 per cent said it should not be mandated while eight per cent of respondents did not know.
“We had basically, in every demographic, or age group [a situation where] the majority are against making vaccination mandatory for adults,” Johnson stated.
He said when the question was asked about making vaccines mandatory for children five to 17 years old, “there was an even broader outcry against it with 67 per cent saying no, it should not be mandatory and 24 per cent saying yes”.
The noted pollster said that every group, including supporters of the governing Jamaica Labour Party, was against making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.
“So we had a 2-1 majority against making it mandatory for adults and an almost a 3-1 majority that's against making it mandatory for school children,” said Johnson.
While the government has stated that vaccination is required for members of the public to attend functions hosted by the state and at sporting venues, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has repeatedly stressed that the administration will not be adopting a policy of mandatory vaccination.
The Bill Johnson- Mello TV poll was conducted between January 14 and 16 in 84 communities islandwide. It involved 1,176 respondents.