Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Gov’t mulls over relaxing restrictions for fully vaccinated

Published:Friday | June 11, 2021 | 12:16 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Jamaica’s chief medical officer.
Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Jamaica’s chief medical officer.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says that as more Jamaicans get fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, more of the current restrictions to slow the spread of the virus locally may be relaxed as has been proposed in the United States.

“The more you achieve persons getting vaccinated is the less the risk [of COVID-19 contraction] will be because that is the most effective defence as of now. Therefore, you will see the elimination and relaxation of measures,” Tufton said yesterday while providing an update on Jamaica’s current vaccination plan.

“We do not anticipate that we are going to be living in this environment forever. The idea is to manage the risk, overcome the risk, and hopefully, over time – and given all the measures, to include the vaccines – eliminate the risk,” Tufton added. “We need to reach herd immunity, and we need to vaccinate 1.9 million of our population in an ideal scenario.”

Tufton’s comments followed a revelation from Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, the chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, that approximately 93 per cent of Jamaica’s targeted population for COVID-19 inoculation has not taken up the vaccine.

“We still have persons not coming out, especially in the over-60 population, to get their first doses of vaccine. As the numbers improve in terms of our indicators and our vaccination level increases, there is more likelihood of the reduction of [prevention] measures,” Bisasor-McKenzie said during the virtual briefing.

“To state specifically what those measures are going to be would be very difficult to say now, but certainly, that is the way we are going, that the better our numbers get and the more we get vaccinated, then the more likely we are to reduce more and more restrictions,” Bisasor-McKenzie added.

On May 28, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended, among other guidelines, that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

But in Jamaica, as at June 10, only 2.2 per cent of persons aged 60-69 have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine while 14.3 per cent have only had one dose. Of those in the 70-79 age group, 5.6 per cent got both jabs, and 17 per cent got one dose, while in the 80 and older group, 7.1 per cent got both doses, and 12.6 per cent got only the first shot.

Meanwhile, Tufton said that the Government may consider imposing fresh restrictions on overseas travellers coming to Jamaica if their countries exhibit high COVID-19 risk.

“Other countries throughout the world, and our key partners, are clearly doing a lot to try and minimise and eliminate that risk, and they are more ahead of us in terms of vaccines. To the extent that they may become high-risk and we are at risk as a result of the travel, then clearly, the Government would have to consider all options,” said Tufton.

To date, Jamaica has recorded 49,110 COVID-19 infections and 989 deaths from the virus. There are 20,733 currently active cases.

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