Wed | Sep 22, 2021

To vaccinate or not? That’s the question

Published:Sunday | June 27, 2021 | 12:07 AMDebra Edwards - Assistant Online and Lifestyle Editor
Ayanna Dixon, fashion designer and illustrator of ASD, says that she has done her best to follow the protocols to a ‘T’ to stay safe during the pandemic, so when she heard of the vaccine blitz at the National Arena, she didn’t waver in getting inoculated.
Xesus Johnston, chief executive officer of Prime Sports Jamaica Ltd., said the country’s vaccination programme is a critical part of the way forward, and that Supreme Ventures is ready to do its part. Supreme Ventures has launched its Vax & Win lottery promotion, enabling vaccinated persons to win cash and prizes every week.
Sasha Johnson, a registered midwife, prepares to administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for persons 50 and older who turned out for their second dose at the National Arena on Saturday, June 19.
President of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley (right), gives Cathia Wright her vaccination card that states that she is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, on Saturday, June 5.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (left), bumps elbows with 104-year-old Hazel Espeut, who was among over 400 elderly persons who turned out at the National Arena in St Andrew on Saturday, April 3, to be inoculated during the second COVID-19 vaccination blitz.
Kamal Bankey, chairman of Dream Entertainment, is fully vaccinated. While making it clear that he is not a medical practitioner or scientist, he proposes that the population follow suit and get vaccinated.
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Dialogue about the COVID-19 vaccine is trending, and with everyone’s lives affected in some way or another due to the pandemic, it’s understandable why.

Questions ranging from “Did you get your jab?” to “How were the side effects?” are all normal considering the times we’re living in. Most people have questions about inoculation and want to make the right decision for themselves and their loved ones.

An article on the World Health Organization’s website states that “vaccines have been supported by decades of medical research; they work by preparing the body’s own immune system to recognise and defend against a specific disease”.

Jamaicans started to get vaccinated on local soil for COVID-19 with the Astra Zeneca vaccine in April. This being the first pandemic on record during the social media age, reminiscent of the ink on the finger selfie to indicate you’ve voted, the vaccine selfie (vaxxie) is now a thing. Politicians, celebrities, and average civilians are all part of the latest social-media inclination where people share post-vaccine selfies in the hopes of encouraging others to get a jab.

President of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley says: “Vaccines have always been an important tool in health. As children, we get our first vaccine by six weeks to prevent tuberculosis and continue to get more as we age. Importantly, our MMR vaccine, which prevents measles, has kept Jamaica measles free for decades as a result.”

She continues: “It goes to show that vaccines are effective. If you compare Jamaica to the USA, where the MMR vaccine isn’t mandatory, it’s not uncommon to have measles outbreaks, especially in states that have high numbers of unvaccinated persons.”

With the entertainment sector recently given the green light by the Government to start having events, Kamal Bankey, chairman of Dream Entertainment, is fully vaccinated. While making it clear that he is not a medical practitioner or scientist, he proposes that the population follow suit and get vaccinated. “I look at vaccination as another tool in the fight against COVID-19. Different protocols have different levels of efficacy, and vaccination is scientifically proven to be the best line of defence against COVID-19.”

With the local vaccination supply slated to be increased, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton agrees, saying, “Vaccines are a much better way to minimise the virus.”

THE HESITANCY

As far back as there have been vaccines, there has been some level of unease about them, too.

YRush doesn’t consider himself an anti-vaxer, but like many, he is concerned about the current COVID-19 inoculation move. “Normal actual vaccines are great, but these COVID jabs are not vaccines. They don’t provide immunisation, stop COVID contraction or transmission.” He has questions: “How exactly does a jabbed young person protect a more at-risk older person? They can’t, so what’s the point of exposing the youth to the countless side effects of experimental tech?”

He continues: “There is no vaccine for COVID-19. A vaccine, by definition, provides immunisation. A vaccine, therefore, should, to a great degree, stop the contraction of the ailment, and not one of the jabs provide any immunisation. None stop contraction and none limit the transmission of COVID. Hence they are not vaccines, so let’s stop calling them that. Calling them vaccines confuses people into believing they are just one more vaccine, which they aren’t. Not to mention that all the vaccines given to us as children have years of testing. These new, rushed treatments don’t. The side effects for these COVID jabs are obviously way worse than any vaccine we know, and they are extremely bad, especially for the young. Don’t experiment on me or my family.”

COMBATING RELUCTANCE

Health Minister Christopher Tufton knows there is concern about the vaccine and believes that clear information and honest communication play a major role in alleviating this: “Information is key. There is so much misinformation out there and conspiracy theories. From the onset of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health has and continues to work on this.”

Concerning the vaccine being created as quickly as it has, Dr Fitz-Henley says: “They have known about coronaviruses for many years and had been producing vaccines towards specific types. COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, and they were able to adjust the pre-existing information and make it work specifically for COVID-19.” She adds, “Also, for the first time in our lifetime, we saw the world come together to share science and work towards one common goal. The outcome of that saw COVID-19 vaccines made and tested in timelines we had never seen. It goes to show the power of working together.”

Ayanna Dixon, fashion designer and illustrator of ASD, says that she has done her best to follow the protocols to a ‘T’ to stay safe during the pandemic, so when she heard of the vaccine blitz at the National Arena, she didn’t waver in getting inoculated. “As soon as the vaccination became available, I went to the blitz,” she says. While it took three to four hours to get her first jab, she considered it organised and was willing to do what it took to move forward. Echoing Dr Fitz-Henley’s sentiments, she adds: “Everybody came together because this has been very hard for a lot of businesses and people and everyone is ready for this to be over. We’re all just trying to work together, and if we could continue with this energy, I think it would be really good for Jamaica.”

THE INCENTIVES

To get ahead of vaccine tentativeness, from a worldwide perspective, countries and companies are getting creative with enticements to incentivise people to get vaccinated. Californians can now get free Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell as part of the state’s Vax for the Win campaign.

Locally, Supreme Ventures has launched its Vax & Win lottery promotion, enabling vaccinated persons to win cash and prizes every week. Entries can be submitted online, with each person allowed one entry, and upon winning, persons present their vaccination card and ID to receive prizes.

“After about a year and a half, we have to figure out a way to get back to normal,” said Xesus Johnston, chief executive officer of Prime Sports Jamaica Ltd., who, at the time of this interview, was waiting to get his second dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. “The vaccination programme is a critical part of the way forward, and at Supreme Ventures, we are ready to do our part to encourage as many persons to get vaccinated as possible. As the country’s leading lottery provider with one of the largest distribution networks across the country, we want to contribute significantly towards the national effort.”

His take on those who opt not to get the vaccine? “Our role isn’t to convince people to get vaccinated, but it is to highlight that this is an important part of the COVID management and to bring awareness.”

THE FUTURE

After almost two years of lockdown, where many people have died, and some have lost their livelihoods, there is no doubt about the impact of the pandemic and the toll it has taken on hospitals, the economy and people’s mental and physical health. It then begs the question, can there be a future for us all without the COVID-19 vaccination? And what of availability? In a press release sent on Friday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said its vaccination drive would continue tomorrow and that due to the number of vaccines presently in the country, the ministry will continue its vaccination of members of the public who are 50 years and older, “are due their second dose and are closest to the 12th week after their first dose”. It said more doses are expected to arrive on the island over the next two days. It did not state how many.

debra.edwards@gleanerjm.com