Tufton OK with MPs grilling MOHW officialsMonday, October 11, 2021
OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has taken the intense scrutiny of his team's distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in stride, saying he respects that other elected officials have opted to speak out on what they believe was a breach of policy.
“I fully respect the right of any Member of Parliament to probe a policy issue relating to their constituency and I admire the fact that MPs — and back bench MPs in particular — do that. I think they should do more of that. It is a good thing and that is what our democracy is about, it allows for that type of probing and investigating,” he said.
Tufton was speaking with the Jamaica Observer during a vaccination blitz at Turtle River Park in Ocho Rios, St Ann last Thursday.
The MOHW came under fire from MP for St Andrew East Rural Juliet Holness, who questioned its decision to allow adults to be given the Pfizer vaccine, the only one yet approved for children 12 and over. Holness vigorously expressed her disapproval during Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Tuesday, drawing a correlation between the missteps with Pfizer and the poor take up of the AstraZeneca, forcing the Government to figure out the logistics of dumping more than 50,000 doses.
Permanent secretary in the ministry, Dunstan Bryan, stoutly defended his team's actions on Tuesday, a line the health minister also firmly held.
“The policy was to prioritise children but also to give others who came with them unrequested, and that is what we have done... We could argue over the rightness or wrongness of the policy and whether it should be changed but the ministry did not breach our responsibility,” Tufton said.
Efforts are being made, he said, to get more doses of Pfizer into the country before the end of this month. And he assured those anxiously awaiting their second dose that there is still time.
“I would also like to reassure the public that we have time to get the vaccine and administer while still preserving efficacy of the first dose. There are countries that have waited up to 12 weeks to administer a second dose, and we are well within that period,” Tufton said.