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Mayor slammed for vax preference as Manchester eyes ambassadors

Published:Wednesday | October 20, 2021 | 12:10 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell.
Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell.

A Manchester councillor has taken Mayor Donovan Mitchell to task for expressing preference for a particular brand of COVID-19 vaccine as the parish struggles to get residents to bump up the vaccination rate, which hovered around 11.19 per cent up to last week.

Up to last Wednesday, 22,139 residents were fully jabbed, our newsroom was informed, with 20,371 people getting their full course of the double-dose vaccines, while another 1,768 had received a single-dose jab.

Some 35,343 people had also taken their first-dose shots at sites across the parish and were awaiting their second doses.

Speaking a recent local board of health meeting at the Manchester Municipal Corporation, Medical Officer of Health Dr Nadine Williams said an even greater push will have to be made to increase vaccination take-up as the parish targets getting 65 per cent of residents vaccinated.

Williams said that local ambassadors could be key to getting more of the roughly 190,000 residents to take up jabs and that communities for recruitment and engagement had already been identified.

“We still have a good way to go and we continue to crave your support and work along with the various agencies,” she said, also noting that the parish has seen a slowing of the COVID-19 transmission rate.

As at October 13, the parish had roughly 108 active cases with 236 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Councillor of the Alligator Pond Division, Darlton Brown, said that the leaders could do more to encourage take-up of the jabs.

“As the local board of health, we should have a direct strategy as to what we are going to do so we can make even more demands on the Ministry of Health ... . Those of us who are in the field will see that the opposition to vaccine take-up is high. The numbers, as they are, are not looking good,” said Brown.

He said that a simple declaration of a councillor’s vaccination status could make more residents warm up to the idea of being inoculated.

However, Mitchell, who chairs the Manchester Municipal Corporation, said a move to encourage even more people to take jabs without confirmation of that the shots were indeed available could be counterproductive.

“We have to work in tandem with the ministry. It doesn’t make sense we are out there mobilising people and encouraging these persons and the vaccine is not available,” he said.

As tensions grew following the chairman’s response, Brown said it could not be that supplies were inadequate when nearly 60,000 AstraZeneca doses had to be dumped earlier this month, having expired because of an unwillingness among citizens islandwide to take the shots.

Mitchell admitted, however, that more localised public education would be done on the efficacy of the now-available AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs to win over persons waiting for the out-of-stock Pfizer shots.

But Mitchell, who later admitted that he had his own vaccine preference when questioned about his approach to encouraging vaccination, was labelled as part of the problem.

“ ... So you are doing vaccine shopping as well, and you see, we are twice defeated,” charged Brown.

Mitchell later said that the focus should, instead, be on moving the current vaccination numbers in the parish to at least 50 per cent.