The Jamaican Government will accept responsibility in the unlikely event that a citizen requires additional support as a result of adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday as the country kicked off its vaccination drive.
Pointing out that the current AstraZeneca vaccine being administered across the island had undergone a rigorous approval process before getting the green light from by the World Health Organization (WHO), he expressed confidence in the safety of the jabs.
“We are very confident that these vaccines are not dangerous and are very unlikely to cause any side effects that are so bad, that would lead to that eventuality [serious medical issue or disability],” the minister explained during a virtual Gleaner Editors’ Forum yesterday.
Explaining the vaccine administration process, Tufton said that it begins with a counselling session in which questions are asked about allergies and illnesses, among other issues.
After the shot has been administered, patients are then placed under observation to see if there are any immediate adverse reactions.
“We have an observation area where persons have to sit for 20 minutes and then we give them another appointment. They also have follow-up contact, just in case something should happen,” he said.
The current Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines being administered locally require two shots for full vaccination.
Responding to reports that Jamaica’s Caribbean neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago, will get only a third of the doses of the vaccines expected from the COVAX Facility this month, Tufton said that the Government has been pursuing a number of options.
The COVAX Facility is designed to accelerate equitable access by countries globally to appropriate safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are supposed to get a small shipment next week from COVAX, but it is a problem, in that what has been promised, to date, has not been delivered, even though there is a commitment to deliver everything,” the health minister said, adding that there are production issues globally.
He added that the Government was also looking at facilities through CARICOM, the Africa Platform, bilateral partners and specific manufacturers.
With lingering concerns globally of a “general shortage and hoarding of the vaccine” by some countries, Tufton said that Jamaica was hoping to get positive responses from these sources.
“It is a tragedy, as far as I’m concerned, that some countries have more than enough and others, like Jamaica, are facing a difficulty,” Tufton lamented.
In the weeks ahead, he expects that conversations with the WHO will get more intense as complaints are made about continued inequity in access to vaccines.
“There’s a lot of price increases because of the supply and demand issue. We have some challenges ahead, but we are working on it,” Tufton remarked.