Ministry awaiting first shipment to start COVID-19 vaccinationFriday, February 26, 2021
BY JASON CROSS
MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has declined to give a date for the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines until it has been loaded on an aircraft en route to Jamaica.
Tufton toured two locations in Kingston Wednesday, where the vaccines and equipment essential to administering the drugs will be stored and dispatched to regional health authorities across the island, before reaching hospitals and health centres.
When quizzed by the Jamaica Observer how soon the vaccines would arrive, the minister said, “Soon, soon”.
“I don't want to tell you when until it is on the plane. We don't want to create any more anxieties. What is true is that we are doing it the right way. My conviction is very very clear that the Government of Jamaica is doing it the way that we have done it before, by sourcing vaccines that are safe and putting in place the infrastructure to get that vaccine to the people,” he said, adding that he wouldn't rush the process due to critics.
“I am prepared to bear those criticisms. I know that ultimately the people will be better from what is being done,” he said.
Tufton said that two walk-in cold storage rooms at one of the facilities can safely store more than a million doses of vaccines, pointing out that safety is a crucial element in how the drugs are stored.
“The facility is properly sanitised and well maintained. COVID vaccines are going to be viewed as rare commodity so from a security perspective, this facility is properly secured with cameras and 24-hour security so that whenever we put the inventory in, not only does it stay but the integrity (remains in place). Nobody can come and tamper with it,” the minister said, declaring that the facility has enough space to store all the vaccines Jamaica will need.
“If we got two million vaccines tomorrow, storage would be there for the two million. That is not a problem”.
Another facility in Kingston currently stores more than 500, 000 syringes as well as patient information cards to keep track of how many doses of the vaccine persons have received.
“While a lot of discussion is taking place around vaccines the reality is that a lot of work is taking place while we wait on the arrival of a safe vaccine which has to go through a process.
“We have the igloos and mobile units to pack them in and transport them across the island, so there is no problem. My visit here is to look, encourage and motivate in preparation for the vaccines' arrival. The conversation sometimes creates panic about why a vaccine. I really want Jamaicans to be reassured that vaccines will come, vaccines that are safe and what is important now while we wait, is to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that when it comes it is properly stored, safe and it can be transported to the various parts of the country.”
On Tuesday, Opposition Leader Mark Golding gave Government a failing grade for what it said was a slowness in procuring the vaccines.
Golding said that Prime Minister Andrew Holness should use all his powers to leverage international relationships and friendship to secure the vaccines to achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible.
On Wednesday, Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX programme, receiving a batch containing 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca brand.