While Jamaicans across the diaspora have been rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine, those living on the island have been watching and waiting.
The Jamaican health ministry had previously indicated that roughly 16% of the island’s population would be vaccinated in 2021. This means that COVID-19 will still pose a threat to the majority of the island’s population well into 2022.
Speaking to Bloomberg QuickTake’s Tim Stenovec recently, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that rich nations are slowing the global vaccination efforts by hoarding the shots for their citizens.
“The surplus purchasing of vaccines by wealthy countries is hoarding. Prudent planning would be to ensure that there is a consummate spread of the vaccine right across the world. The world has to reach a certain threshold in vaccination in order for us to defeat the virus. It’s a false sense of security, unless you intend to close your borders permanently, that would leave any country to believe that if they vaccinate their population alone, then they’re safe,” he said.
Jamaica is one of the countries that have joined the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a global collaboration launched by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization, to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines; especially for the world’s poorest countries. But wealthy nations like the U.S., Russia and China, have not supported the effort.
Prime Minister Holness pointed out that the COVID-19 vaccines are an important part of global tourism recovery.
Since reopening the island’s borders in June 2020, the Jamaican government has experienced some difficulty in coronavirus management. But Holness says despite the challenges, the reopening has been generally successful.
“We are at about 30% occupancy right now. Our earnings are down about 70%, but our industry is strong and we’re finding creative ways of surviving. We are dependent on tourism so we want to see travel return, but of course, it has to be safe for everyone,” Holness said.
Jamaica is expected to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccines in April. Prime Minister Holness says he’ll lead by example and take the vaccine once it becomes available locally.