PM gets COVID vaccine, points to importance of NIDS

Prime Minister Andrew Holness got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination yesterday and used the occasion to again push for the proposed National Identification System (NIDS).

Minutes after he took the jab at The Good Samaritan Inn in the Corporate Area, Holness pointed to the data that is being collected at vaccination centres, and argued that it could be easier if the NIDS was in place.

“Documentation is very important because we need to ensure that everyone who has taken a vaccine is accounted for. We want to be able to properly understand the side effects [and] we want to be able to, at some point in time, give a very accurate count of the number of persons vaccinated to know whether or not we have reached the threshold of herd immunity, which is [at least] 65 per cent of the population,” said Holness, whose wife Juliet, the Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural, also took the jab.

He noted that the COVID-19 vaccine registration process is very important as it opens an account for each Jamaican, but argued that it would be much easier if there were digital records.

“If we had the NIDS, then all that would happen is that you would come in, show your card and all that data capture would then go into the vaccination database and it would take maybe… four minutes off the processing time. It means that you could have a throughput 20 per cent higher than what it is now,” added Holness.

The Government has budgeted $2.3 billion in the upcoming fiscal year to continue implementation of the NIDS, which will be a voluntary national identification system.

It is being designed to enable trusted electronic identities for people, services and inputs, and the implementation of strong authentication, data encryption and digital signatures, based on a certifying authority.

Following a 2019 Supreme Court ruling that aspects of the NIDS, as initially proposed by the Holness Administration, were in violation of the Constitution, the Government has redrafted the legislation, which is now before a joint select committee of Parliament.

In addition to his NIDS plug, Holness used the opportunity yesterday to reiterate his plea to Jamaicans to take the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available, while adding a call for order at vaccination centres.

“Take the vaccine when your time comes; do it orderly. We don’t want to see a spike in the numbers as a result of persons going to take the vaccine, because remember, even after you have taken the vaccine there is a period of time for your immunity to build.

“So during that period of time there is still a potential and if there are too many persons gathering at the site… then they would have been exposed. So it has to be done in an orderly way,” added Holness as he promised Jamaicans that the Government will have a continuous supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, the island has received 50,000 doses of vaccines donated by the Government of India and 14,400 doses under the COVAX (COVID-19 Global Access) facility.

Additional doses of the vaccine are expected in the island by the middle of next month as the country continues on its plan to inoculate approximately two million people over 11 months.

In the meantime, Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who also received his jab at The Good Samaritan Inn yesterday, added his voice to those urging Jamaicans who have expressed fear, to take the vaccine.

“I think the greater fear is COVID-19 and what it can do either to you or your loved ones. I think if you look at what is going on around the world, and the millions of people who are being vaccinated, the side effects are very manageable.

“There is a lot of misinformation going around in social media. Please just pay attention to the official information provided by the Ministry of Health and by the World Health Organization… don’t take chances with your life or your loved ones’ lives. Get vaccinated,” said Golding.

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