Sun | Jul 25, 2021

Tufton vows to push back at anti-vaxxers

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2021 | 4:26 PMChristopher Thomas - Gleaner Writer
In this March 2021 photo Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton (left) speaks with Audrey Samuels Gilling, senior public health nurse in the St James Public Health Services during the minister's tour of western Jamaica, following the start of the government's COVID-19 vaccination programme (Ashley Anguin photo). While in Westmoreland today the minister vowed to push back at anti-vaxxers.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has vowed to continue to push back at the anti-vaccination movement. 

The health minister said the campaign by anti-vaxxers is creating challenges. He pointed to reports of nursing home residents whose relatives have been preventing them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Yes, there are people who discourage other people from taking the vaccine, whether in the health centre context, at home, or in the community, and some of those persons are family members. We will continue to push back against this, and we have to do a lot more to push back,” Tufton told journalists today during a tour of the COVID-19 vaccination drive at the Sean Lavery Faith Hall in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland.

“It has become more of an issue, because the anti-vaccination movement has become well-resourced and has utilised alternative media to push this narrative that somehow vaccination is bad for you. But the truth is that vaccines have saved many lives; in fact, the World Health Organisation says vaccines save 2 million lives a year,” Tufton said.

He continued:“So those who advocate that kind of nonsense should be soundly rejected, and I am prepared to reject them in the morning, at noon, in the evening and at night.”

Supporters of the international anti-vaccine campaign, also known as ‘anti-vaxxers,’ are hesitant or outright opposed to vaccinations, citing concerns about the safety of vaccines and alleged links to health conditions, such as autism. The campaign was identified by the World Health Organization in 2019 as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

Tufton also said that while individuals have the right not to participate in the current COVID-19 vaccination drive, which is expected to target 50,000 people island-wide, they should not push their anti-vaccination beliefs on others.

“Frankly speaking, I pity those persons, because what they are actually doing by advancing that argument is putting themselves and their families at risk. Those who buy into that narrative and who may want to put themselves at risk, that is their choice, but they should not try to put others at risk,” said Tufton.

Meanwhile, Dr Marcia Graham, the chief medical officer for health in Westmoreland, confirmed that nursing home residents in the parish have refused the COVID-19 vaccine because of opposition from their relatives.

“We have vaccinated most if not all of the nursing home staff, but as it relates to the residents, we are having some resistance there. When we go and do our health education and interface with them to find out what their concerns are, some of the residents indicate that they would want to have the vaccine, but their relatives are discouraging them, and they do not want to be at odds with their relatives,” said Graham.

“We are continuing the conversation with them, and we are hoping the relatives will see the benefits of the vaccine and also realise that their relatives are vulnerable, and that they will therefore agree for them to get the vaccine,” she said.

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