No ‘mystery’ around Jamaica’s COVID vaccine interest, says PM

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday announced that a public education campaign is to be launched around the use of a COVID-19 vaccine, once one is approved, to “demystify” the Government’s relationship with the COVAX Facility.

COVAX, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is a facility which aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country.

Concerns have been raised in the public space about the Government’s push to access a vaccine and how it will be administered.

The prime minister on Tuesday urged Jamaicans to scrutinise information circulated on social media amid an uptick in “fake news” about the expected use of a vaccine.

He was speaking at a virtual press briefing from Jamaica House in St Andrew.

“There is no mystery about Jamaica’s participation in the global access facility, where over 100 other countries in the world are participating. What Jamaicans need to be mindful of is that without this kind of facility, vaccines would be developed and the richer countries who have the resources and who develop the vaccine, in the first instance, they would be in the front of the line. They would be able to vaccinate their population while we are here debating fake news and all kinds of issues here, not having access to a vaccine to help us get our economy on track.

“So, the COVAX Facility is designed to ensure that countries like Jamaica, poorer countries who can’t develop any vaccine for ourselves [because] the cost of doing that is prohibitive – but we’re human beings and citizens of the world and we, too, should have fair and equitable access to the vaccines that are tried, tested and proven to save lives,” he said.

The prime minister said, too, that the Government has a duty to ensure that it is well-placed in the line to access such a vaccine, should it become available.

Holness added that the Government has been conservative in its approach, in terms of approving and using new medicines, vaccines and tests.

He further stated that approvals are aligned with that of the highest authorities on the subject, to include the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization.

“So, we’re not taking any risks with the health of our people. So once a vaccine is available we’ll look at it, we’ll study it, and we’ll conclude it is safe, then we will make it available to all who would want the vaccine.

“Let me say that vaccines work when you have a high percentage of persons taking the vaccine. So there has to be a high level of public education to get people to understand the risks and the safety dividend that you get from taking that vaccine, so that you can make conscious decisions about your own health and security. So, the Ministry of Health [and] the Government will be engaging a public education campaign to demystify, to place all the facts on the table, so that our population does not have to listen to fake news and be dragged all over with information that has ulterior motives,” said Holness

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