Jamaica forced to dump 55,000 doses as COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy persists

“Only about 10 per cent of Jamaica’s population is fully vaccinated,” writes Emma Lewis for Global Voices.

At midnight on September 30, the Jamaican government found itself having to do away with 55,000 expired doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine that had been donated by the United Kingdom on July 30.

The wasting of the precious doses was a particularly bitter pill for Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton to swallow. He tweeted that there had been a last-minute rush on vaccination sites, with some centres remaining open for extended hours in order to use up as many doses as possible. [. . .] Minister Tufton also responded sharply to a critical banner headline in the Jamaica Gleaner, instead laying the blame on vaccination-hesitant Jamaicans. [. . .] Journalist Jovan Johnson shared the health ministry’s vaccination statistics on Twitter. Of a total population of 2.9 million, the government’s target for vaccines is 1.9 million; the statistics do not include children under 12, who are not yet vaccinated. [. . .]

Jamaica appears to be slowly emerging from a third wave of COVID-19, with infections gradually falling after a peak on September 6. A series of lockdown days and nightly curfews, which were finally scaled back on September 18, may have had an impact on the number of new cases.

Vaccination targets

Thus far, over 803,000 vaccines have been administered, with only 292,326 people being fully vaccinated, placing the island at the bottom of the region when it comes to the percentage of citizens who have completed their vaccination schedule, whether single- or double-dose (9.5 per cent). Also, thousands of people have not turned up for their second dose.

Vaccination levels have been increasingly falling short of targets, despite the urgings of state agencies and the private sector. The government aims for 65 per cent of its target population to be fully vaccinated by March 2022. As of October 6, it had reached just over 15 per cent of that goal.

A range of outreach efforts, including webinars, weekly press briefings, social media posts, a new tool to reach “shut-ins,” and the expansion of vaccination sites into communities via a mobile bus and private sector partnerships, have barely moved the needle in recent weeks.

Private-sector efforts, which began in late July, have also fallen short, with just over 20,000 employees being vaccinated over the course of eight weeks. The Private Sector Vaccination Initiative held a vaccination drive at a major Kingston transportation hub, targeting public sector transport operators, but although the goal was to vaccinate 500 taxi and bus drivers in a day, the uptake was only 200.

Why the hesitancy?

Meanwhile, the National COVID-19 Operationalisation Task Forceestablished to ramp up the vaccination drive within seven months, has faded from the public spotlight. [. . .]

For full article, see https://globalvoices.org/2021/10/08/jamaica-forced-to-dump-55000-doses-as-covid-19-vaccine-hesitancy-persists/

[A close-up of an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine vial. Photo by John Twohig on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]

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