Patron of the National Council for Senior Citizens and Professor of Public Health and Ageing at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer (left), receives her coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 10 from Nurse Fiona Ellis.
Photo: Michael Sloley

While many elderly persons are now anxiously awaiting their coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines, Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer, widow of Jamaica’s third Prime Minister, Hugh Lawson Shearer, considers herself lucky, given that she was the second person in the country to receive the jab, during the first day of inoculation on March 10.

According to Dr. Eldemire-Shearer, a patron of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) and public health physician, she was eager to take the vaccine.

She sees taking the jab as everyone playing their part in getting rid of the deadly virus and ending the pandemic.

“It’s been a year, and it’s time for us to get back to normal life, to exercise… and this is the start,” Dr. Eldemire-Shearer tells JIS News.

She describes her feeling after receiving the first shot as “a relief” and an “awesome experience”.

“The shot does not hurt, a little burn…no more than any other vaccine, and it’s the start of freedom,” she notes.

Dr. Eldemire-Shearer encourages elderly persons to get their vaccines, so that they can live longer and healthier lives.

“I think the older people are a high-risk group. I represent many of them today and it is to urge them to come out to the various centres and to get their vaccines,” she says.

“It’s now one year of the stay-at-home Order on persons over 60 [years]… it started at 70, now 60. Staying at home for an entire year takes its toll, and it’s time for that population to get back to normal, and this is the first step, as long as they still embrace the mask wearing, the social distancing and sanitising,” Dr. Eldemire-Shearer adds.

As a patron of the NCSC, she argues that senior citizens want to go back to their normal lifestyles.

“They want to go to church. They want to go and do their daily activities, so the impression that I have at this point is that they are willing to take the vaccines,” she says.

Dr. Eldemire-Shearer, who also serves as Professor of Public Health and Ageing at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, points out that similar to others in the world, she has had to shift her lifestyle habits and make changes to survive the pandemic.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (right), observes as Patron of the National Council for Senior Citizens and Professor of Public Health and Ageing at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer, displays her coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine card, after getting her jab on March 10.


“I’ve had to cut back my practice, and we’ve had to go offline and teach online. Online teaching is not the same thing as interacting in a classroom with people,” she notes.

Dr. Eldemire-Shearer commends the Government for its efforts in fighting against the spread of COVID-19.

“Kudos to the Ministry [of Health and Wellness]. The process to get the vaccine is well organised, starting with the phone call to come, because you need to know when is your appointment. When you come, you are greeted, you are sent to the sanitising station then to temperature [check] and everybody is wonderful,” she says.

On Monday, March 22, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will launch its web-based system for the registration and scheduling of appointments for elderly persons who wish to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. Persons 75 years and above will be required to engage the software.

During the week of March 22 to 28, elderly persons 75 years and older and parish council representatives who are 60 years and older, will be able to take their vaccine at one of the established facilities across the island.

Elderly persons 75 years and older will also be vaccinated between March 29 and April 4, while elderly persons 60 years and above and persons working in educational private and public institutions, will be vaccinated between April 5 and 11, depending on the supply of vaccines.

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