KINGSTON, Jamaica – Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has hinted at the possibility of Jamaica not achieving the target of having 65 percent of the population vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) by the end of March this year.
“My target is that I wish everybody over 18 or over 12 should have the vaccine. I have not been stuck on the 65 percent number anymore because I think the virus is best neutralized if we all buy into (the vaccine,” Tufton told reporters at a ceremony where COVID-19 response equipment from Germany were handed over at the National Health Fund Warehouse.
Tufton acknowledged that the vaccine uptake remains low and that the focus has now shifted from the vaccination target which was set early last year.
“Right now, we have administered about 1.2 million doses…. Just under 600,000 have got a full complement, whether the single dose or the double dose. So, we are way below the target. We’re 22 percent fully vaccinated and, you know, we really need to move with a pace to get more people on board.”
The Health Minister also defended Prime Minister Andrew Holness from criticisms levelled against him regarding his handling of the current COVID-19 wave.
Holness has said that he is not prepared to implement further measures to slow infections, stressing it’s now up to Jamaicans to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and take the available vaccines.
Tufton said while Prime Minister Holness is not being arrogant, he is however driving home the point that the population must also play its role in getting vaccinated against the virus which has killed 2,551 people and infected 115, 000 others since March 2020.
“It can’t be a one-sided thing. We are very sensitive to their concerns, but at the same time, there is a response that is required that helps to protect them,” Tufton said.
“Two years is a long time for people to know exactly what needs to be done to protect themselves, and we need to encourage that. So, it’s not an attempt at being insensitive, callus, arrogant. I mean that has no place in how we choose to address this particular issue. We are all vulnerable,” he added.
Tufton told reporters that the government is still making efforts to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children younger than 12 years old and that discussions are taking place on the matter.
But he said the government is finding it difficult to secure the vaccines since even future supplies have already been purchased by developed countries.
“If we could get supplies – and we are in discussions to try and get supplies – it’s not just a function of the money that you have and the willingness to buy, it’s a function of availability, which involves some bilateral discussion as well as the manufacturers’ supplies,” he noted.