Holness reiterates intention to take COVID-19 vaccine when available

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reiterated that he will be taking a COVID-19 vaccine whenever one becomes available in Jamaica.

This would be a big deal for boosting public confidence in a vaccine which many people have indicated that they will not be taking for various reasons. The actions of those persons are likely to prolong the spread of the coronavirus if enough people refuse to accept the vaccine.

The consensus in the global scientific community is that upwards of 70 per cent of a country’s population must be vaccinated to effectively halt the spread of COVID-19.

To boost public confidence in vaccines in the United States, the country hardest hit by the pandemic with over 16 million infections and over 300,000 deaths, three former presidents, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have said they will take the jab publicly, while Vice President Mike Pence is to do so on Friday, and President-elect Joe Biden next week.

Holness, who was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, did not state whether he would take the vaccine publicly. However, he said he would help to boost confidence in the vaccine by taking the shot whenever it is available in Jamaica. He also wants his fellow lawmakers to help boost confidence in the vaccine.

“There is the issue of the acceptance of vaccination and the public education that has to follow along with the logistics and support mobilisation for vaccination. It would help if the opinion leaders in this House would indicate to their constituents that they should take a more embracing and supporting poster towards vaccination,” said the prime minister.

He added that “you could end up having a problem where we have the vaccine and people not deciding to take it. That would, in itself, create another problem, so I believe this House has a duty to speak positively and definitively in support of vaccination, and I’m hereby making that declaration, that I will be taking the vaccine as I’ve said before.”

Jamaica recorded 11,907 cases of COVID-19 up to Wednesday, with 276 deaths since the first positive case was confirmed on March 10, and Holness is insisting that taking a vaccine remains a personal choice.

“We would want persons to make the choice having full knowledge and full understanding of how it works and how it will protect them. So I am taking the decision to take the vaccine, and I’m encouraging everyone else (to do so),” he said.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, told Parliament last week Tuesday that up the 16 per cent of the Jamaican population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2016. He said the first one per cent of the 16 per cent will be vaccinated by April, another six per cent by June, and the full 16 per cent by the end of 2021.

That would leave 84 per cent of the Jamaican population vulnerable, a point raised by Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Morais Guy. He noted that this would mean that Jamaicans would have to continue abiding by such health protocols as mask wearing, social distancing, limited gatherings and regular hand sanitising for all of 2021, much like what is currently taking place.

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