Sat | Oct 23, 2021

30% of high-schoolers in St James get first jab

Published:Tuesday | September 7, 2021 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Dr Tanique Bailey-Small, the acting medical officer of health for St James, has estimated that less than a third of secondary school students targeted to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 jab in St James have received their first dose of the two-shot vaccine.

Making the revelation during an interview with The Gleaner during a vaccination drive at the John Rollins Success Primary School in Rose Hall, St James, Bailey-Small noted that the local health department will have to make a stronger push to reach the untapped population.

“We still have quite a number of students who still need to come for vaccination because nationally, we need to have at least 65 per cent of the school population vaccinated for them to resume face-to-face classes, as Prime Minister Andrew Holness would have indicated,” Bailey-Small said.

She said that in terms of percentage, St James has seen between 20 and 30 per cent of the students taking their first shot.

“That means that while we have gotten a lot of students, we still need to tap the students who are in other parts of the parish,” she added, explaining that the team as ventured weekly into rural areas such as Adelphi, Mount Carey and Maroon Town to administer COVID-19 vaccines to students.

Jamaica received a cache of 208,000 doses of Pfizer just over two weeks ago as part of an overall gift of more than 600,000 doses from the Government of the United States of America.

The Pfizer shots are being prioritised for students age 15 years and older. Children as young as 12 years old with certain medical conditions which could see them falling severely ill if they contract the coronavirus are also being targeted.

The new school year got under way yesterday with online instruction, owing largely to a catastrophic third wave of infections affecting the island and the low vaccination numbers.

Vaccine hesitant parents

As at Sunday, 36,250 second-dose shots had been administered in the parish along with 12,333 first-dose jabs. Some 422 dose of the single-shot Johnson&Johnson vaccine had also been given.

Bailey-Small noted that the low number of students taking the jab is widely due to parents not being on board to have their children take the shots.

“The students would need parental consent, but some parents are still hesitant about vaccination. For that reason, when there are PTA (parent-teacher association) meetings, or sometimes when we go to the schools which put on different meetings, we try our best to join those meetings just to answer some of the questions and concerns that they have,” said Bailey-Small.

St James is maintaining its status as the region with the third-highest number of COVID-19 infections islandwide. As at Sunday, St James recorded 7,183 of Jamaica’s total 71,987 COVID cases since March 2020. It falls behind Kingston and St Andrew’s 18,293 cases and St Catherine’s 13,076 cases.