Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Over 50 MoBay homeless and street persons get the jab

Published:Thursday | October 14, 2021 | 12:08 AMAshley Anguin/Gleaner Writer
Some homeless and mentally ill persons waiting on their vaccine at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay on Sunday.
Some homeless and mentally ill persons waiting on their vaccine at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay on Sunday.
Scores of mentally ill and street persons show up to take their vaccine on World Mental Health Day on Sunday at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay.
Scores of mentally ill and street persons show up to take their vaccine on World Mental Health Day on Sunday at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay.
Nurse Jennifer Pearson administers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Leighton McFarlane on World Mental Health Day at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay.
Nurse Jennifer Pearson administers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Leighton McFarlane on World Mental Health Day at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in Montego Bay.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

As the nation continues its relentless drive to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus, the St James Health Department and the St James Municipal Corporation jointly staged a vaccination project for mentally ill and homeless persons on World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

Tackaya Brown-Lawrence, one of the psychhiatric-mental health nurse practitioners who participated in the project, told The Gleaner that over 50 persons were vaccinated in the exercise, which took place at the St James Parish Council Care Centre in downtown Montego Bay.

“We are ensuring that the clients here do have equal rights to be vaccinated, if that is their choice. We want to give them the opportunity to be vaccinated and not be left out,” said Brown-Lawrence. “While the parish council is feeding them with hot meals and care packages, we will vaccinate them. We are giving them the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but if they want AstraZeneca, we will make it available.”

“Those who do not want to take it, we cannot force them to do so,” added Brown-Lawrence.

Garfield Ricketts, one of the persons who was quite happy to take the vaccine, said he believes that God sent the medication for him to survive.

“I have been HIV-positive for 12 years, and it is like the Almighty came to me with this medication. I made sure to speak to the doctors first before getting the jab,” Ricketts said. “The doctor told me it was good for my immune system, so I decided I needed to take it. I feel like I saved my life by taking this vaccine, and I feel like I could cry right now. I am not getting paid or trying to impress anybody, I just feel good because I know it is real.”

However, Cleon Jarrett, who has been mentally ill for quite some time, said he has no intentions of taking the vaccine as he fears it could harm him.

“I believe the vaccines are not strong enough and can cause effects to your body. I don’t want it to kill me, because I know it is killing people. The only way I can take the COVID-19 jab is if I have to go on a plane and fly to foreign to get a wife and children. My mother didn’t take it, so I am not, either. If the Government says I have to take it, I still don’t want it.”

Interestingly, Rayon Earle, who lived on the streets, was in tears after he was told by his doctor that he could not take the vaccine because of health-related issues.

“I am crying now because I spoke to my doctor and I was informed I cannot take the jab because of the medication that I am on,” said Earle. “I have problems with my nervous system and it gave me a stroke. This makes me really sad because I want it. I do not believe the vaccine will harm anyone, so I encourage persons who are afraid to get the jab to be brave and take it.”

Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon told The Gleaner that the St James Municipal Corporation’s interest in the mentally ill and street people does not stop at just vaccinating them, as plans are also afoot to properly house and care for them.

“We have properties across St James, and we intend to reach out to corporate Montego Bay and Food For The Poor to partner with us and build appropriate facilities to place the homeless,” said Vernon. “HEART/NSTA and other entities are a part of our plans, so we can get them some skill training and medication to ensure they can be employed. A lot of stakeholders are on board, so I think that is a good start to move forward.”

Pauline Lecky, the inspector for the poor in the St James Mental Health Services, said although she has not seen any reports of an increase in mental health cases, there appears to be an increase in the population of street people.

“The reason we know this, is that we have been taking the time to take care for those who reside here in St James. Presently, we do not have an accurate figure of street people, but we are treating 235. Some are not here today, but we will send them a hot meal just the same,” said Lecky.