The Jamaican nurse who received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday is encouraging her fellow countrymen to roll up their sleeves. Sandra Lindsay, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Long Island Jewish Medical Hospital in New York, was the first person in America to receive the drug.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Lindsay has urged Jamaicans to listen to the scientists and to ignore conspiracy theories. But the encouragement has seemingly fallen on deaf ears.
The Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) says its members are concerned about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. President of the NAJ, Patsy Edwards-Henry, says healthcare workers feel pressured by the public to take the vaccine first.
Their fears are similar to those that were addressed by Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton last month.
“There are persons in Jamaica as I believe in the world who feel that vaccines are not safe, who feel that there are side effects that could be quite dangerous and I go to the very extreme, where persons argue that it’s a conspiracy theory to support particular interests, large multinationals and wealthy families,” said Tufton during a press briefing in November.
Meanwhile, Henry says the vaccine should be administered to politicians to build public trust. Prime Minister Andrew Holness along with past prime ministers Bruce Golding and PJ Patterson had previously indicated that they would be willing to take the first vaccine shots.
But the President of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA), Dr Mindi Fitz Henley says that frontline workers will take the drug regardless.
“It’s not dependent on whether they [local politicians] take it. I think those in high-risk situations should take it. But in terms of saying that “we are not gonna take the vaccine unless they take it”, it sounds as if we’re being into the conspiracy theories and fears about the vaccine,” she said.
The JMDA President also explained that she’s confident the Health Ministry will not distribute an unsafe vaccine to the public.
“The ministry of health and wellness so far. We are hopeful that with more education, Jamaicans will feel more comfortable with the idea of taking the vaccine. We are ensured that the ministry and the government would never give us a vaccine that they don’t believe is safe,” she said.
The Holness administration plans to inoculate 450,000 Jamaicans, about 16 percent of the population with the drug next year.