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Will Jamaicans Take The COVID-19 Vaccine?
By Arriel Bullock, Associate Writer
The first batch of the long awaited COVID-19 vaccines; donated to Jamaica by the Government of India; finally arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport on Monday, March 8, 2021.
The 50,000 doses of vaccine was accepted from the Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Rungsung Masakuiby by the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, along with the Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.
The island should be receiving another 14,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on or before March 11, 2021. In addition, the African Medical Supply platform will supply Jamaica with 1.8 million doses of vaccine, starting in April, 2021.
As a result of these donations, as well as through other methods of procurement, the government is expected to have sufficient inoculations for two million (2,000,000) Jamaicans by the end of the year.
The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed millions of lives worldwide, creating fear, despair, uncertainty and economic decline.
The significant drop in tourist arrival has created a ripple effect across all sectors of Jamaica, with staff cuts, business closures, salary cuts, etc. affecting a significant number of residents.
Add to this school closures; with the associated challenges of distance/online learning; as well as the various curfews and social distancing/crowd control measures and many are experiencing pandemic fatigue.
The arrival of the vaccines is viewed by many as a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. For others, however, this is met with skepticism and trepidation. Is the vaccine safe? What are the adverse effects? Is this all a conspiracy? Are we sure this vaccine will work?
Yes the first set of doses has arrived, and the logistics of delivery and administering of them being implemented, but will Jamaicans take the COVID-19 Vaccine?
From the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, with talks of vaccine development, there has been a major divide regarding whether Jamaicans will actually take any resulting vaccine(s), with views vacillating on both sides over time.
Social media videos with claims of conspiracies, secret agendas and social experimentation have been circulating, stoking the flames of suspicion. Further inflaming these beliefs are the clips of interviews and articles questioning the efficacy of the vaccines in actually halting the spread and contraction of COVID-19.
There is concern regarding the fact that alternative methods of treatment are not being explored as aggressively as the vaccine is being touted, as well as the fact that many other diseases have been studied for years with no cure/vaccine in sight, but we are expected to trust a vaccine that was developed in under a year for a supposedly new virus.
Change is always scary and humans are naturally apprehensive of anything that seems to go against their accepted norms. The introduction of a ‘new norm’ is, therefore not something that is readily embraced. A good number of Jamaicans are superstitious and view strange and new ways of life through skeptical lenses.
Adding to that mix the strong Christian background of the island; with one of the highest number of churches per capita worldwide; and the result is another reason to fear this new type of vaccine, some viewing it as the ‘Mark of the Beast’ written about in the Bible.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, persons are tired of the curfews, lockdown measures, etc. Families are burdened with debt and financial insecurity, due to job losses or salary cuts. Parents, teachers and children are frustrated with the challenges of distance learning (inadequate internet service, being confined to a screen for hours on end, lack of access to required resources, etc).
Work-from-home has also created its own set of challenges, such as: lack of privacy, sporadic internet service, background noises in noisy neighborhoods, computer illiteracy, among others. As such, a significant number of Jamaicans are ready for a return to normal and if this vaccine promises that, they are ready for it now.
Some companies have sensitized their staff to the necessity of taking the vaccine. The government has done its part in providing details regarding the process of inoculation, the need for it and the measures being put in place to effectively secure and provide safe vaccines for the populace.
The Minister of Health has done various press briefings, as well as social media postings to try to quell the fears of the nation, answering; as best as possible; any lingering questions. The country is ready to move past this pandemic and resume its position on the world market as a destination of choice that is open for business.
There are persons on both sides of this issue already preparing to either take or oppose the inoculation of themselves and/or their children. There are others in the middle applying a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Will Jamaicans take the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, and only time will tell.
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