Wed | Mar 3, 2021

Vaccine caution for immuno-compromised

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2021 | 12:21 AMNadine Wilson-Harris and Jonielle Daley/Staff Reporters
Beatriz de Gregorio gets a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Monday as the capital begins to inoculate people over the age of 80 for the new coronavirus.
Beatriz de Gregorio gets a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Monday as the capital begins to inoculate people over the age of 80 for the new coronavirus.

Jamaicans with compromised immune systems are being urged to get medical clearance to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, although experts feel it should be safe if their condition is not severe.

There are concerns globally that those who do not have an optimally functioning immune system could be left behind during the race to vaccinate against COVID-19. These persons include those with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis or chronic illnesses that impair the immune system such as cancer and organ-transplant patients.

Christine Carrington, professor of molecular genetics and virology at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, is among those encouraging these individuals to discuss the vaccine with their doctors.

“There are certain immuno-compromised people where there is absolutely no problem with taking the vaccine. So people who are immuno-compromised due to HIV, etc., they have no problems,” she said during a UWI COVID-19 Task Force COVID-19 Vaccination Q&A.

Clive Landis, immunologist and chairman of The UWI COVID-19 Task Force, said the reaction might vary for individuals receiving cancer treatment.

“When you discuss with your oncologist the state that your immune system is in, it depends on what cycle you are in and if you are actually in an immuno-compromised stage, then the vaccine may actually not be harmful to you,” he said. “But it may actually fail, because your immune system will not be able to respond appropriately.”

Public health expert and chair of the PAHO Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group, Professor Peter Figueroa, also issued a similar caution as his colleagues.

“Persons with autoimmune conditions like lupus, as far as I am aware, you can still take the vaccine, unless you are having a severe episode, exacerbation of your condition, then maybe you wait until that cools down and then you get the vaccine,” he advised.

The Government is hoping to vaccinate some two million Jamaicans by March 2022.

In addition to the more than $5 billion that has been allocated to procuring the COVID-19 vaccines, the Ministry of Health & Wellness is expected to spend an additional $978 million on other resources under the national vaccination programme.

Of the $978 million, about 30 per cent, or $293 million, will be spent procuring 3.5 million syringes, and another 25 per cent, or $244 million, on hiring 80 temporary staff members across the four regional health authorities.

A portion of the budget ($64,380,000) has also been allocated to public education materials and the upgrade of the web-based Vaccine Management System, while $54,375,000 will go towards an inventory application that tracks the movement of vaccines across the island and produces reports on demand and uptake.

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