Sat | Oct 23, 2021

PM pushing for vaccine info empowerment

Published:Friday | September 3, 2021 | 12:06 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing members of the media during a tour of the Isaac Barrant Health Centre in Hampton Court, St Thomas, on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing members of the media during a tour of the Isaac Barrant Health Centre in Hampton Court, St Thomas, on Wednesday.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reiterated that he will be the one spearheading the ambitious vaccination education drive, which he hopes will inspire other stakeholders to support the campaign to increase the island’s COVID-19 inoculation numbers.

“We are going to push very hard to empower our people with information until we have the majority of Jamaicans taking the vaccines, at which point we will push even harder for those of our brothers and sisters who are resistant and reluctant, to encourage them strongly to take the vaccine,” Holness said while addressing a virtual press conference on Wednesday, where he announced an extension of the current no-movement days over the next two weeks.

The newest lockdown period, which has been welcomed by business and medical interests as a way of curbing the latest spike in COVID cases, will commence from September 5 to 7 and again from September 12 to 14.

WELCOME VACCINATION

Holness, who is increasingly soaking up criticism for the handling of the pandemic, acknowledged that some members of the public may not welcome vaccination, but that will not stop his drive to present information so persons can choose whether or not to get vaccinated.

“Obviously, there are persons who hold strong views [concerning vaccination], and I respect your views, plus, it is not my intention to try and convince you,” said Holness. “My intention is to present you with the information, and we have met upon more persons who simply do not know, and that lack of knowledge leads to a lack of action on their part. It is clear that if we are going to meet vaccination goals, we have to pull in more stakeholders.”

The prime minister was speaking hours after leading a sensitisation tour in St Thomas, one of two parishes along with Hanover, where the numbers of COVID inoculations have been the lowest across the island. A community vaccination drive has also been launched to mobilise grassroots leaders to persuade people to get vaccinated.

To date, the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination website has indicated that 550,010 doses of the vaccine have been administered, with 404,839 Jamaicans having got at least one dose. It is expected that Jamaica will achieve 65 per cent herd immunity by March 2022.

Holness further noted that while some people may decide to get vaccinated due to fear of the virus, it is education on the vaccine process that will allow for the current vaccination drive to succeed.

“There is a sense that fear is going to drive people to take the vaccine, but fear will only carry you so far. It is knowledge, and empowerment by knowledge, that will keep the take-up numbers [for vaccination] very high,” said Holness.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, Jamaica has recorded 69,054 total cases of COVID-19 infection, with 1,568 deaths on record as at Wednesday. There are currently 18,554 active cases, while 48,493 persons have recovered from the virus.