82,542 Jamaicans have three week wait for second jabWednesday, September 15, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
Jamaicans who are now due their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will have to wait at least another two to three weeks until supplies arrive from the United States, the health and wellness ministry announced yesterday.
According to portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton, vaccination sites will stop offering the Pfizer jab as of today until a second shipment arrives from the US.
The development affects 82,542 people who received their first dose, which has a recommended three-week wait between the two doses.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing, Dr Tufton stressed that there was no cause for alarm as, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, second doses of the vaccine can be given up to six weeks, and as long as 12 weeks.
“The assumption that somehow persons are in jeopardy is not a correct assumption. We did say we would do a three-week turnaround, but based on the WHO guidance, persons do have additional time and continue to benefit from the single dose until the next arrives. So I don't want this to be interpreted as somehow a disadvantage,” he stated.
He insisted that the ministry did not miscalculate in the administration of the 208,000 doses that came in August.
“The unpredictable arrivals of vaccines has been a major challenge for us since we started to get shipments, [but] in this instance the [Pfizer] vaccines that we received, with a commitment for an additional shipment, represented a slightly different perspective because there wasn't a view, certainly from the source country, that these vaccines were in short supply,” he said, pointing to the difference between the supply of Pfizer vaccines and others through the COVAX facility.
“A lot of the supply shortfalls were linked to just not being able to get from the manufacturer, so there was some amount of greater certainty [with the Pfizer donation].
“In addition to that, there is a view that it is better for someone to have a single dose, particularly in the context of community spread, than to not have a dose at all, rather than to hold and then administer to those who have had a first jab and denying others who could have had a first jab and benefited from some amount of protection,” he added.
At the same time, the Government has no firm date yet from the US for the arrival of the next shipment of vaccines. Jamaica has administered 179,915 doses of the vaccine, 36,876 of them second doses. The remainder should be used up by today.
“We did expect to get a second shipment based on the agreement we have with the US, and anticipated that shipment arriving in time to administer the second doses. Those discussion are taking place,” Dr Tufton advised.
Meanwhile, six private hospitals are being fast-tracked to start offering COVID-19 vaccines by the end of September. Clinical lead on the national COVID-19 vaccination programme, Dr Melody Ennis, said two facilities are far advanced with preparation and that at least one should start offering the jab by next week.
Dr Tufton said arrangements are being finalised with the hospitals.
“Inspections have been done of their facilities and they have been given the kind of technical guidance, so in a sense they are already a work in progress. The agreement is going to be a function of how quickly they get up to speed on the additional requirements,” he said.
The Government has also invited other private entities, including faith-based organisations, private doctors' offices, and pharmacies, to make proposals to enter into arrangements to administer vaccines. The $450-million tab for the initiative is being borne by the Government, which means Jamaicans will not have to pay for the shots.
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