Sat | Dec 4, 2021

‘Beginning of the end’

Over-60 parliamentarians, gov’t officials get first dose of COVID jab

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2021 | 12:15 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Public health nurse Patricia Coates administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Speaker 
of the House of Representatives, Marisa 
Dalrymple-Philibert, on Tuesday at the Office of the Political Ombudsman.
Public health nurse Patricia Coates administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, on Tuesday at the Office of the Political Ombudsman.
Opposition Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson is given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by public health nurse Patricia Coates at the Office of the Political Ombudsman on Tuesday.
Opposition Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson is given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by public health nurse Patricia Coates at the Office of the Political Ombudsman on Tuesday.
Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (centre), president of the Senate; House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert; and Senator Peter Bunting have a chat after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Office of the Political Ombudsman on Tuesday.
Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (centre), president of the Senate; House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert; and Senator Peter Bunting have a chat after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Office of the Political Ombudsman on Tuesday.
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Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson is looking forward to returning to the courtroom when Jamaica achieves herd immunity against COVID-19.

“One of the things that I miss is going to court because that’s my primary occupation,” said Tavares-Finson, a Queen’s Counsel.

Following Monday’s arrival of 14,400 doses of vaccines under the COVAX Facility, Cabinet members, parliamentarians and heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government, who are 60 years and older, were vaccinated on Tuesday.

Tavares-Finson was among a handful of parliamentarians and their next of kin who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Office of the Political Ombudsman in Kingston.

The Senate president said the COVID-19 jab was no different from any other vaccine he has taken over the years.

“I take a flu vaccine on a regular basis. This is very important for us to do as a country, and I think that this is the way that we will manage to get over this horrific pandemic,” he said.

Monday’s delivery of AstraZeneca complemented a shipment of 50,000 doses gifted by the Indian government a week earlier.

The Holness administration has targeted a 65 per cent take-up of the coronavirus vaccine by March 2022 – a crucial benchmark for the island to achieve herd immunity against a disease that has infected nearly 32,000 and killed 494 people.

Vaccine hesitancy is cause for concern here – as in many countries across the world – but Tavares-Finson cautioned Jamaicans that the vaccine was a far better alternative to serious illness from COVID-19.

“People say the mask or the ventilator. The truth about the matter is that it is the needle or the ventilator,” said Tavares-Finson.

SENSIBLE STEP

Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, told The Gleaner that the injection was “very comfortable and very painless”.

For her, receiving the first dose signified an important and sensible step to avoid hospitalisation and, possibly, death.

“We are living in very unusual times and it is important that we do all we can to avoid these two things,” said Dalrymple-Philibert.

She added that from reports, all COVID-19 vaccines being administered have a high degree of credibility.

The House speaker also praised healthcare workers for the tremendous work they have done since the onset of the pandemic.

Personally, she is longing to reunite with her children and grandchildren in the United States and to socialise with good friends.

Meanwhile, leader of opposition business in the Senate, Peter Bunting, said he experienced “very little noticeable pain” when the vaccine was administered.

“It would be comparable to a mosquito bite. The nurses and the support team were very courteous and helpful. Overall, it was a positive experience,” he told The Gleaner.

Bunting said he would not hesitate to recommend the vaccine to Jamaicans, particularly the elderly and those with comorbidities.

“I am relieved that it might signify a turning point in the battle against the COVID pandemic, but it will not be the end. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of the end,” the senator said.

The senator said that he was concerned about how COVID-19 restrictions have impacted face-to-face classes for children.

“It’s really setting them back, not just from the learning loss per se, but also from the social interaction. The development of these interpersonal skills and social skills is a big part of the school process.

“I’m more excited about them being able to return to some kind of normality,” Bunting said.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com