KINGSTON, Jamaica, – Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton says he is anticipating a greater turnout for the upcoming island-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination blitzes, as additional stakeholders come on board to assist in encouraging more persons to get inoculated.
“We have included in the mix, the very important role of the political representatives… and the intention is to roll that out across the country where, in another week or so, we are going to have a national blitz in every parish. Essentially, what it is about is to mobilize all stakeholders, to encourage in the first instance, our vulnerable groups to be a part of the… immunization blitz,” he said.
Tufton was speaking with journalists during Saturday’s staging of the second vaccination blitz at the National Arena, where just over 400 persons received the first of two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The blitz is the mass vaccination plan being implemented by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to inoculate 1,000 persons in a day at a single location.
Persons, 75 years and older, are now being targeted for vaccinations island-wide, with a reserve list to include members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) and individuals over 60 years.
Tufton noted that while Saturday’s turnout was affected by rainy conditions, there is also a “strong vaccine hesitancy” in the country towards COVID-19 vaccinations.
Consequently, he said the Government is working with several stakeholders, including the church and senior citizens groups, to assist in getting persons inoculated.
“What we really want to get out of this is a unified message to the country, to the people of Jamaica that this is a risk that affects all of us and so it requires a solution from all of us,” he emphasized.
The Health Minister also expressed gratitude to several parliamentarians whom he said assisted with Saturday’s proceedings.
He further noted that a key player in the mobilization effort was Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and Member of Parliament for Kingston Western, Desmond McKenzie, who he said was instrumental in getting approximately 80 of his constituents vaccinated.
In his remarks, McKenzie said he was optimistic that the Local Government Ministry’s involvement in the vaccination drive “will go a far way in enhancing the program.”
He advised that he will be enlisting the assistance of all 63 Members of Parliament and 230 Municipal Councilors across Jamaica in further bolstering the initiative.
McKenzie further informed that on Tuesday, he will be meeting virtually with the Mayors, Inspectors of Poor, and other key Ministry stakeholders.
“I am giving the full commitment of Local Government in the process as we try to vaccinate as many Jamaicans as we can,” he said.
McKenzie encouraged Jamaicans not to dispel the false narrative regarding COVID-19 vaccination, stressing that “I took it”, adding that he experienced mild side effects for a few days.
The Local Government Minister said he felt gratified to have been able to bring out a significant number of his constituents to get vaccinated, despite falling short of the 100 targets.
He said when the persons who were inoculated go back to their respective communities and others see that they are fine, this will encourage more individuals to get vaccinated.