On Monday, Jamaica welcomed the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by the World Health Organization.
For months, major countries around the world including France, Germany, and Italy have raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. The company stated the vaccine is 76% effective after the first dose, with protection maintained to the second dose.
Jamaica has welcomed the approval of the shot, saying it’s good news for the island.
“Yesterday, we got very good news from the World Health Organization (WHO), which listed two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally. These vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India,” said the island’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that AstraZeneca-SKBio has been identified as likely to be a significant player in providing vaccines for the regional population via the WHO COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
“The good news for us, therefore, is that as a country we can move closer to the introduction of vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca in the coming weeks, through the COVAX facility, as part of our (COVID-19) response,” the Minister noted.
The day after the approval, the island’s ministry of health signed an MOU with the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), which will help to buy vaccines for Jamaicans.
Keith Duncan, the president of the Private Sector Organization, and Dr. Christopher Tufton, the minister of health, both said that the collaboration means that Jamaica will see normalcy sooner than later.
“This MOU allows us to move through these groups a lot quicker…it will enhance the arrangements that are stated in the [interim] plan because we are going to attempt to access more vaccines, and [in] accessing more vaccines, we can deal with the vulnerable quicker and the balance of the population in a much speedier approach,” Dr. Tufton said.
Duncan says the organization wants to help Jamaica’s economy bounce back from the pandemic.
“Getting to herd immunity is extremely important so if we can support the government to get Jamaica there, then we are fully on board,” he said at the MOU signing. The WHO says a country has achieved herd immunity when 60 to 70 percent of the population has acquired resistance to the virus.
But since the announcement of the partnership, Jamaicans have raised concerns about the organization’s intentions.
Many people believe that the PSOJ only wants to profit from the planned vaccine distribution. But Dr. Tufton later defended the partnership and made it clear the private sector will not profit from the partnership.
“It’s not that the private sector is seeking to profit from this venture. But they see the return in a more substantial way – getting the economy up and running,” he said.
Dr. Tufton says under the World Health Organization, Jamaica will initially only have access to enough doses to vaccinate 16% of the population. This requires the country to look elsewhere for additional doses.