Vaccine development and the Caribbean
Observer webinar to explore whether more aggressive regional push neededSunday, July 18, 2021
BY ANIKA RICHARDS
OVER the past year and a half 'vaccine' has become a buzzword. This is not because the term is new to us, but it has become somewhat of a lifeboat as the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
At the onset of the pandemic, the word vaccine was on everyone's lips as scientists raced to develop an effective jab. Today, it is being uttered in relation to access, equity, hoarding, and hesitancy.
As developing countries, like Jamaica, scurry to get COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens, despite the existence of the COVAX facility, the J amaica Observer — through its Your Health Your Wealth publication — decided to explore whether more countries in the Caribbean should explore vaccine development, like our neighbours in Cuba.
Today, at 5:00 pm, four panellists will tackle the question in a webinar moderated by Professor of Public Health and Health Technology Dr Winston Davidson, which will be streamed live on the Jamaica Observer's social media platforms and be available for playback on the newspaper's website. The four panellists are Dr Jose Armando Arronte Villamarin, national coordinator of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Jamaica; Dr Peter Figueroa, professor of public health, epidemiology and HIV/AIDS, The University of the West Indies; Dr Adella Campbell, associate professor and head of the Caribbean School of Nursing, University of Technology, Jamaica; and Dr Yohann White, immunologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
It will be the first of three webinars exploring some of the glaring issues that have come to the fore amid the pandemic so far and strategies for moving forward.
With Jamaica having vaccinated only nine per cent of the population as at last Friday, July 16, according the Ministry of Health and Wellness's COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker, there is still a far way to go before the country gets to herd immunity.
Speaking with Your Health Your Wealth ahead of today's webinar, Professor Davidson said the present global system has overemphasised the commercialisation and the commercial competitiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That has undermined our capacity to get vaccines and that is why the Jamaican population and the Caribbean population must now take centre stage to demand solutions that can be applied to us,” he said.
As such, the professor of public health and health technology said today's webinar is timely.
“The topic of discussion is extremely important because, notwithstanding Jamaica's best practice attempt at controlling this pandemic, it is necessary to do what Jamaica has done so far, but it is not sufficient. It is necessary because this will achieve the objective of keeping the impact of the pandemic at bay, preventing people from getting the disease and, especially those vulnerable, from dying from the disease,” Professor Davidson said. “We are doing well so far, but we cannot continue without taking the vaccine, which is the final, definite preventive method to control the disease.
“If we have no vaccines, it may take another three to four years to really control the disease,” he said.
The public health specialist emphasised that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is important.
“If we get the vaccines this year, we can get herd immunity by next year and so, therefore, strategies to getting the appropriate vaccines are of vital importance as the next step,” he told Your Health Your Wealth.
Today's Your Health Your Wealth webinar is, therefore, very important, Professor Davidson said, “for us to explore where is it we are going to get the vaccine and how we are going to combine our resources as a Caribbean people to ensure that we in the Caribbean are able to control this disease and to recover and to build our economy as early as possible”.
For those who might be of the view that Jamaica has more pressing problems than focusing on vaccine development, the public health specialist said people's very existence is dependent on it.
“Because, without the control of the pandemic you will not be able to get economic recovery, and if you can't get economic recovery, people will suffer, people will die, people will be thrown into the poverty line. And so this is what we refer to as an existential exercise… Every Jamaican must be interested because it is has to do with their survival,” he said.
Be sure to tune in later today as the panellists share their views on the topic and chart the way forward.
Also, pay keen attention as there will be a giveaway courtesy of one of our sponsors, Guardian Group. The question will be based on the discussion, and the first person to submit the correct answer to us via e-mail to HealthandWealth@jamaicaobserver.com will be our winner.
Check out next week's Your Health Your Wealth section in the Sunday Observer for the winner.
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