Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Not so fast

Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated too soon could spell trouble, says health rep

Published:Saturday | June 12, 2021 | 12:08 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Dr Tanique Bailey-Small, St James’ medical officer of health, says that if Jamaica follows the United States’ footsteps in rescinding some of the same COVID-19 restrictions, the island could be in trouble.

“At this point in time, it would not be recommended for us to say, ‘Yes, go ahead. Persons who are vaccinated can go without their masks.’ What works in the United States may not work for little Jamaica,” said Bailey-Small while addressing Thursday’s monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC).

Bailey-Small was responding to a comment from Councillor Dwight Crawford, of the Spring Garden Division, who had pointed out that some Jamaicans who have been fully vaccinated are going without masks in a similar manner to persons in the United States.

“I notice that in some parts of the United States, persons who have been vaccinated twice are being allowed to go without their masks. I have noticed that it has become somewhat of a practice here in Jamaica for persons who are vaccinated twice, so as the professional, I would like to hear your view on that matter,” Crawford said to Bailey-Small.

The councillor was referencing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) May 28 guideline that fully vaccinated people in the United States can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws.

Small number of Jamaicans vaccinated

But while acknowledging the CDC’s recommendation, Bailey-Small pointed out that Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness has not given any such concession for vaccinated people, adding: “The challenge is that when we say persons who are fully vaccinated are able to go without their masks, persons who are not vaccinated also go without their masks, so it is difficult to tell who is vaccinated versus who is not.”

Continued Bailey-Small: “Outside of that, we still have to remember that we have only vaccinated less than five per cent of our population, and that is not significant for us to have herd immunity. Also, even though we may be fully vaccinated, remember that the vaccine is not 100 per cent effective, so you can still have breakthrough infections.”

Roughly 28,355 Jamaicans had received their two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine up to Wednesday. Some 161,850 persons had received the first dose.

On Thursday evening, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie indicated that the ministry was mulling over easing some restrictions for fully vaccinated Jamaicans.