JM | Dec 1, 2021

More vaccines go to waste as Jamaica struggles with AstraZeneca take-up

Ategie Edwards

Ategie Edwards / Our Today


The Ministry of Health and Wellness was last night (November 30) scheduled to once again dump more than 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as a result of ongoing vaccine hesitancy towards the brand.

Since the COVID-19 vaccines began arriving in the country, many Jamaicans have been reluctant to take the jab, while others have wholeheartedly decided against it, despite the health ministry’s efforts to encourage the public to get vaccinated.

Up to 10 am yesterday, approximately 1.1 million doses had been administered in the country – 599,000 first doses, 440,000 second doses and 68,000 single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – representing just 18.6 per cent of the target population.

In Parliament yesterday afternoon, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton noted that the country was currently lagging behind in its vaccination programme and that the Ministry of Health and Wellness would now make 50,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available to the general population in an effort to boost take up.

The Pfizer brand, which has been the preferred vaccine for Jamaicans, was previously only made available to children over 12 and adults over 50 due to the limited number of doses in the island and the fact that it is was the only brand that has been approved for youngsters.

But with the recent arrival of new batches of the Pfizer brand, there is now far greater availability for wider distribution in the island.

Our Today on Tuesday spoke with Dr Melody Ennis, director of Family Health Services, who shared that the health ministry will continue to encourage persons to visit the different vaccination sites in an effort to get their shot, in order to prevent any future need for mass dumping of doses that have sat unused before their expiry date.

In addition to this, the ministry will continue its door-to-door vaccination drive to increase the vaccination rate among the Jamaican people.

Dr Melody Ennis, director of Family Health Services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Ennis said that, as at 3:03 pm, 1,523 AstraZeneca doses were administered for yesterday – 651 persons were administered their first dose while 872 others received their second.

Another 1,272 persons, as at 3:07 pm, had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while 776 persons came out for their second dose, bringing the total to 2,048.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson had seen just 543 persons receiving the vaccine on Tuesday up to 3:08 pm

The health ministry reported earlier in November that it had been forced to dispose of some 280,000 vaccines so far this year.

Juliet Holness, member of parliament for East Rural St Andrew, on October 6, criticised the health ministry for what she considered its poor mobilisation of the vaccines amid reports at that time that some 60,000 doses had to be dumped.

Holness, during a sitting of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, argued that there had not been sufficient encouragement from the ministry regarding the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and that led to a low take-up of those brands.

She further accused ministry officials of mixed messaging and a failure to adequately promote the vaccines.

READ: 50,000 Pfizer doses to be made available to over-18s


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