In March 2020, panic ensued in Jamaica as the island reported its first case of the coronavirus. But on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, the island’s one-year COVID-19 anniversary, there was nationwide relief as the island began administering the COVID-19 vaccines.
Healthcare frontline workers and leaders in the Health and Wellness Ministry across the country rolled up their sleeves to get their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Public Health Nurse Marcia Thomas Yettman and Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer, the wife of deceased former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer were the first to get the jab. Dr. Eldemire-Shearer said that she chose to get vaccinated to have her stay-at-home order lifted.
“I’ve had my first shot, which didn’t even hurt at all. It’s a little jab in the top of my arm. It has now started me on the journey to having my stay-at-home order lifted,” she said.
The island’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, Jamaica Medical Doctors Association President, Dr. Mindi Fitz-Henley and former Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, were among the public figures that got vaccinated on Wednesday.
Former Prime Ministers PJ Patterson and Bruce Golding, who are both over the age of 65, were also asked to get vaccinated in a bid to raise vaccine confidence among Jamaicans. Former First Lady, Lorna Golding also joined her husband to get vaccinated.
As for the current members of parliament, they did not receive the shots on Wednesday. Since last week, there has been an ongoing debate regarding whether or not politicians should be allowed to get the vaccines first.
At a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that politicians will be leading by example and getting vaccinated.
“There are questions raised about whether politicians will get the vaccines before everyone else – a raging debate took place and we saw comments coming from the medical community. Let me be clear, we must lead by example and there are two examples to be set here. The first example is the vaccine is safe enough for the leaders to take and the second example is that regardless of who you are in this society, once the rule is set, you will abide by the rule,” Prime Minister Holness said.
Jamaica got its first vaccine shipment with 50,000 doses from India on Monday. Additional vaccines are expected to arrive on the island on March 11. The government said those next in line for the shots are law enforcement officers.
The government has also announced that it will provide a $10,000 cash grant to residents over the age of 60 – those who are unemployed and don’t receive a pension, if they take the vaccine.