Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Vaccination drive for transportation stakeholders

Published:Wednesday | October 6, 2021 | 3:17 PM
President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services Egeton Newman (left) shares a moment with bus driver Errol Thompson after presenting him with gas vouchers shortly after he was vaccinated against COVID-19 at a blitz at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre in St Andrew on October 6, 2021 - Ian Allen photo.

Judana Murphy/Gleaner Writer 

The first COVID-19 vaccination drive for transport workers and operators kicked off today with an aim of vaccinating 65 per cent of the group in the next four months. 

The initiative has been dubbed 'one shot and ready, two and drive'.

President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Egeton Newman, told The Gleaner that though workers are vulnerable to contracting the virus, vaccine hesitancy remains a challenge. 

“One taxi man carries at least 40 persons per day. One bus operator carries 180 persons minimum and therefore they need to be vaccinated. We plan to have 11 blitzes across the country. Our next stop should be in Portmore and then Spanish Town, but we are trying our best to go right across parishes and if needs be, we will have more,” Newman explained. 

He shared that some 14,000 transport operators have lost their jobs since the pandemic and with curfews and the closure of the entertainment sector, the “transport sector is losing immensely”.

“I just want to encourage, not to force, the transport operators in Jamaica to get vaccinated,” Newman said, urging operators to visit blitz sites or permanent vaccination centres across the island. 

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines were available to transport workers and members of the general public who turned up at the site today at the Half-Way-Three Transport Centre in St Andrew.

Bus driver Errol Thompson took his first dose today, months after contracting COVID-19 in April. 

He received clearance from his doctor on Monday and chose the blitz location because of the convenience. 

“It's the right thing to do and with my job, I think it is very much important to give myself this layer of protection,” the 57-year-old said.  

Thompson, who has been a driver for more than three decades, said he had a bad experience with the virus. 

“I was lousy, lazy and just sick. I want to eat and cyah eat,” he said, adding that he did not require hospitalisation and used home remedies during isolation. 

Thompson received a $3,000 gas voucher from gas station company FESCO after his vaccination and though he did not expect it, he was grateful for the gesture. 

Fifty-six-year-old Barrington McGowan has been a bus driver for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) for eight years. 

He delayed getting the vaccine out of fear of needles but mustered up the courage for the one-shot J&J vaccine. 

“Mi have ah family at home and knowing me inna di public and all sort ah people ah tek di bus, me ah mek sure fix up myself suh me nuh carry COVID up a yard go give mi pickney and mi wife,” he told The Gleaner shortly after receiving the jab. 

McGowan, who was also concerned about the crowds that often turned up at vaccination sites across the Corporate Area, found the operations of the blitz site to be efficient. 

He has vowed to encourage his colleagues to get vaccinated.

“If we nuh tek it today, we haffi tek it tomorrow.” 

Meanwhile, Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) project lead, Saffrey Brown, said she was hoping to vaccinate at least 500 people at the end of the day. 

“We are trying to make sure that we provide access to vaccines in central spaces. Those who were willing to come out and get vaccinated have been vaccinated and others just want information, they want their questions answered, so a big part of what we try to do at the PSVI is to provide opportunities for those questions to be answered,” Brown explained. 

BCIC general manager for marketing, Lori-Ann Glasgow said the vaccination drive is a continuation of its partnership with TODSS.

Glasgow noted that the transport sector consists of frontline workers who are crucial to Jamaica achieving herd immunity.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com

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