The health and wellness ministry stated Tuesday that Jamaicans who are expecting their second dosage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination would have to wait at least another two to three weeks for supplies to arrive from the United States.
Vaccination sites will stop distributing the Pfizer vaccine as of today, according to portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton, until a second supply from the United States comes.
The problem affects 82,542 persons who had their first dosage, with a three-week gap between the two doses advised.
Dr. Tufton stated during a virtual press briefing that there was no need to be concerned because, according to WHO guidelines, second doses of the vaccine can be given up to six weeks and as long as 12 weeks.
“It is not a correct assumption to assume that individuals are in danger. We said we’d deliver in three weeks, but according to WHO guidelines, people have more time and can continue to benefit from the single-dose until the next one arrives. So I don’t want this to come out as a disadvantage,” he clarified.
He claimed that the government did not make a mistake when it distributed the 208,000 pills in August.
“The unpredictable arrivals of vaccines has been a major challenge for us since we started getting shipments, [but] in this instance the [Pfizer] vaccines that we received, with a commitment for an additional shipment, represented a slightly different perspective because there wasn’t a view, certainly from the source country, that these vaccines were in short supply,” he explained.
“A lot of the supply shortages were due to just not being able to acquire from the manufacturer, so [the Pfizer gift] provided some degree of assurance.
“In addition, there is a belief that it is preferable for someone to have a single dose, particularly in the context of community spread, than not to have a dose at all, rather than to hold and then administer to those who have had a first jab while denying others who could have had a first jab and benefited from some level of protection,” he added.
At the same time, the government has yet to get a clear delivery date from the United States for the next consignment of vaccinations. Jamaica has sent out 179,915 vaccination doses, with 36,876 of these being second doses. By today, the rest of the supplies should be depleted.
“Based on our agreement with the US, we expected to get a second shipment, and we expected it to arrive in time to give the second dosage. Those discussions are now taking place, according to Dr. Tufton.
Meanwhile, by the end of September, six private institutions will be able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr. Melody Ennis, the clinical lead for the national COVID-19 immunization program, said two institutions are well along in their preparations and that at least one should be able to deliver the vaccine by next week.
Dr. Tufton stated that arrangements with the hospitals are being finalized.
“Their facilities have been inspected, and they have been provided with technical assistance, so they are already a work in progress.” “How soon they get up to speed on the new standards will determine the agreement,” he added.
Other private businesses, such as faith-based organizations, private physicians’ offices, and pharmacies, have also been asked to submit applications to participate into vaccination administration agreements with the government. The government is footing the $450 million bill, so Jamaicans will not be charged for the injections.