Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says Jamaica may be forced to suspend its COVID-19 vaccination programme due to the shortage of vaccines globally.
Jamaica’s inoculation drive began on March 10 and is set to intensify on Saturday with a so-called vaccination blitz at the National Arena in Kingston. Some 64,000 vaccines have been imported, 33,000 of which have already administered.
The Government had announced plans of importing more than one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by next month, however, India, where the jabs are being produced, has placed restrictions on exports of the product.
Tufton, speaking at the ministry’s COVID Conversations on Friday, said that there are ongoing efforts to secure additional supply of vaccine.
“It is, however, challenging and I don’t think we can shy away from that,” Tufton said.
India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to high internal demand for the drug. Other countries in Europe ad well as the USA have been demanding the the vaccines be distributed to their population first.
“The real challenge is over the next month to six weeks. We have to manage that, but we will keep the country informed on where we are. If we have to suspend for a while then we we will just have to say so. It would be regrettable, and we are hoping not, but its a possibility. Let’s hope it doesn’t occur,” Tufton said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is administered in two doses which must be given at least 12 weeks apart. Tufton said that the persons who have got one shot would not be placed at a disadvantage if Jamaica struggles to source vaccines within the next month.
“I don’t foresee us not being able to have the second dose given that persons are given up to eight to 12 weeks for persons to get the second dose,” Tufton said.
The minister expressed optimism that vaccines will become available on the global market to allow persons to be given the second dose in time. He said that based on what he has been told by clinicians, persons who get one dose of the vaccine have earned about 30 per cent protection against COVID-19.
“You would have already gained some advantage if you have one single dose. protection,” Tufton said.
“The fact that you got only one dose is better than not getting any,” he said, adding that he believes Jamaica will get enough vaccines to give the second dose in time.