Click here to print page

Is Gov't prepared for roll-out of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is right: There can be no robust reopening of schools for face-to-face learning unless teachers are vaccinated. This should be a truism that needs no further explanation in the context of the threat of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, the country cannot escape the debate, given the resistance that many, including teachers, have shown to being vaccinated. Teachers who are not vaccinated run the risk of infection from the virus with all that this implies. Thus, they endanger the children that they are pledged to protect. It is urgent that they avail themselves of the vaccines when they become available. They should have been among the first batch that was vaccinated.

With the slow process of vaccinations so far, there is no telling when more than 50 per cent of the population will be vaccinated — not to mention children, who tend to be at the end of the line. If the Johnson & Johnson doses that have been contracted by the Government arrive by August, in time 60 per cent of the population will be vaccinated. The coveted status of herd immunity would be in sight.

But this will not happen overnight. Once the vaccines arrive in the country the Government will be faced with the mammoth task of getting it into people's arms.

We have honed some good experience in the sparse roll-out so far. But 1.5 million to 1.9 million doses of vaccine cannot be compared to 55,000 or 150,000 doses. When you can run a blitz campaign with a much smaller supply you cannot do so with over one million doses on your hand. This has to be done over a sustained period.

I hope the Government is cognisant of what it faces with this many doses of the vaccine in the country. I have no expertise in this area, but common sense tells me that if deployment is not carefully planned out the country may well be faced with a logistical nightmare. Bear in mind that vaccines have an expiry date and have to be refrigerated. Do we have the requisite personnel in the medical community to carry out the task? Will people's personal doctors be given doses for vaccination for their patients, and will there be a cost factor to this? How effective will the roll-out be in the rural communities? Importantly, what will be done prior to the vaccines arrive to educate and encourage people to take the vaccines, given the degree of hesitancy that is still in the country?

These, among other questions, should be prominent in the minds of the planners at the Ministry of Health and Wellness. I ask them, as a layperson, who is concerned that we do not wait until the last minute to contemplate the task before us. Of course, all of this is contingent upon the vaccines arriving at the stipulated time. I believe the Government has a firm contract with the suppliers, but in the topsy-turvy world of COVID-19 vaccines things are not always as clear-cut as they appear.

But this should not deter the Government from anticipating and making plans for any eventuality.


Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books: Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm and Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or