Tufton expects more people to start taking COVID-19 vaccinesThursday, December 09, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says the Government is not harbouring any fears at this time that the introduction of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines will aggravate hesitancy among those who have rejected the jab in the first place.
“I think that those who are either fearful or outright hesitant, those positions would have been in place long before boosters became a reality. Depending on why you're fearful — if it is about the needle — then clearly the argument about one dose or two doses and it's over would apply if boosters are now required. I think the issue of hesitancy and resistance are caused by several reasons. I don't think it is any more an issue of either availability of vaccines or access points to vaccines…now it's an issue of getting persons to continue to argue around the efficacy and the safety of vaccines,” he told yesterday's Jamaica Observer Press Club at the Pegasus hotel.
Dr Tufton said he anticipates that more people will decide to take the vaccine in the face of continued COVID-19 surges, while pointing to the mounting evidence around the efficacy of vaccines. “Over time, as persons who are vaccinated or countries that insist on vaccination implement these measures or policies, you will see more persons coming on board because of the value they see or perhaps not having a choice,” he said.He noted the overseas employment programme as an example of a high take-up of COVID-19 vaccination by people who need to meet the job requirements. “Indeed, anyone who gets into the overseas work programme are unlikely not to take the vaccine because of the desire to go on that programme,” he said, highlighting also the increasing protocol of vaccine-only admittance to certain events: “I think you're going to see more of that. So I do believe that over time more people will come on board; it is unfortunate that it's taking so long, because it means that some people will die before others come on board,” the health minister remarked.He stressed that the Government has done all it can to make vaccines available, and that people who continue to refuse inoculation do so at their own risk.The ministry has advised that vaccination centres will start offering booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines within another week. This means people who had been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca six months ago can start receiving the shots, while those who have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer will be eligible for the boosters after two months. The boosters are usually offered due to evidence that there is some waning of the efficacy of the vaccines.Health experts are not yet able to predict whether boosters will be a continued feature of COVID-19 vaccination.
“We certainly can't give any definitive answer in terms of what is going to be happening in a year or two years from now. Why there has been the introduction of boosters is that there have been several studies that show that there is some waning of the protection over time, and even that.. information keeps changing. Based on the fact that there is some waning in some populations, particularly the elderly, then there is a need for boosters. What happens after a booster is given... is that you have a boost in the level of protection. How long does that last? Time will tell and will determine if six months later or a year later you may need another one. We can't predict now,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie said. But she stressed that people who have received their full dosage of vaccines will maintain their vaccination status despite the introduction of booster shots.“The primary series is what makes you vaccinated — which is one dose of Johnson and Johnson, two doses of AstraZeneca, or two doses of Pfizer. The boosters are not compulsory nor are they, so far, any requirement for travelling,” she stated.