Jamaica is expected to begin administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in February, two months ahead of the scheduled April roll-out.
The development was revealed on Tuesday by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton. The island will begin administering the shots in mid-February.
In a sitting of parliament, Dr Tufton gave further details on the allocation of the shots, which will first be administered to healthcare workers and seniors.
“Jamaica will receive approximately 140,000 doses of vaccines from COVAX and up to 249,000 of the AstraZeneca vaccines by mid-February. This means that some 125,000 Jamaicans could receive the vaccine in the latter part of February into March,” Tufton stated.
“The availability of this vaccine is, of course, subject to the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing and the indicative amount is based on the current communication from the manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and SK Bioscience,” Dr. Tufton said.
According to the NY Times, the AstraZeneca vaccine prevents the transmission of COVID-19 by nearly two-thirds.
Among those to receive the vaccines are front-line workers, including nurses and doctors, and then vulnerable persons; chief among those are persons 60 years and older.
Dr. Tufton said that the ministry of health still has plans to vaccinate 16% of the population this year, but that percentage could change depending on the supply of the drug.
“I must hasten to caution that it is likely that the allocation could be adjusted upward or downward depending on the present global circumstances and any anticipated challenges that the Facility may encounter, which most likely would be issues around manufacturing,” Dr. Tufton said.
“But, to date, so far so good [as the] commitments have remained true and this latest correspondence that we have received is an indication of confidence in the process to deliver on the commitments that we have signed on to,” he added.
He said that the government is looking to source additional vaccines from Mexico, China, United Kingdom and Cuba, in addition to the African Medical Supplies Platform.
While the ministry of health prepares the island for vaccination, Dr. Tufton said that Jamaicans need to remain vigilant and abide by the safety protocols.
In the last five days, Jamaica recorded an additional 538 COVID 19 cases, with as many as 101 patients hospitalised. The number of deaths have increased by nine, and between eight and 11 persons daily are considered to be in critical condition.
Tufton said that as early as next week, the ministry will begin meeting with private health practitioners to discuss their role in the distribution of the vaccines, especially among the high-risk groups.