The recent coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination mobilisation and public education blitz in Pembroke Hall, St. Andrew, was a welcome engagement for the residents.
Hundreds converged at the Pembroke Hall community centre for the exercise organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which saw the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines being administered and information on their efficacy and safety being conveyed by medical personnel.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, and Minister of Finance and the Public Service and Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North Western, where the community is located, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, were on hand to observe the proceedings.
Pembroke Hall Civic Association President, Novelette Howell, told JIS News that the organisation was encouraged by the Health Ministry’s decision to stage the blitz, noting that “we are in sync with the Government’s [goal] to ensure that at least 65 per cent of the population is vaccinated by next March”.
She said the turnout for the blitz was encouraging, pointing out that while most of the participants were from Pembroke Hall, residents from neighbouring communities also took advantage of the event.
Among these areas were Ackee Walk, Big Yard, Glendale, Hughenden, Jackson Town, Maverley, Three Oaks, Queensborough, and Queensbury.
Ms. Howell said that arrangements were made to transport persons to the location and other sites.
Ms. Howell, who advised that she and members of her household are fully vaccinated, said based on feedback from citizens, there is growing understanding and appreciation of the need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that “I’m starting to see a reduction in the level of hesitancy by persons with whom I interact”.
Ms. Howell said based on this out-turn, “I’m very optimistic… that by [March] next year we will be, at least, at 65 per cent and further down, we will be at 80 per cent”.
She maintained that the Ministry-led public education campaign, among other factors, has been serving to gradually lower the level of vaccine hesitancy and skepticism.
“A number of the persons I have spoken to, who were in the apprehensive group, are now vaccinated. When you talk to them, they’ll tell you that ‘I’m so happy to have been vaccinated’,” the President added.
Ms. Howell urged more persons to get immunised, emphasising that Jamaica is being severely tested by the pandemic.
“We have been suffering for some time and, as a country, we need to get over this pandemic and move on,” she said.
Pembroke Hall resident, Celia French, who got her second AstraZeneca vaccine dose during the blitz, said that “everybody who hasn’t done so, needs to get their vaccine”.
“We need to… because it’s almost two years since we have been shut down, and we need to be free again,” she noted.
Ms. French told JIS News that the reactions she has been hearing to the vaccine continues to be “mixed”, noting that “some persons have already gotten their first or second jab, while there are persons with lingering doubts”.
“I have been hearing so many rumours about the vaccine, and I’m not listening to any… I just tune them out. I think that for the Ministry of Health and Wellness to come into our area and give us this [proverbial] shot [in the arm]… is a blessing,” she added.
Emanuel Mayanja said the blitz was a welcome boost for the work undertaken by various community stakeholders over the last two months to get more residents immunised.
Mr. Myers, who is awaiting his second Pfizer vaccine dose, encourages persons in doubt to talk to and seek clarification from the health professionals.
“For those who are hesitant, I would say to them that the process of vaccination has proven to be one that is always effective in curtailing the spread of diseases. Therefore, I don’t see why it would not give the same result in this case [against COVID-19],” he contended.
Principal of Pembroke Hall Primary School, Ricardo Valentine, who indicated that he has been fully vaccinated since May, urged persons harbouring doubts to be mindful of the COVID-19 statistics. The number of confirmed cases as of October 10 was 86,384 with more than 2,000 deaths.
He said the data further show that “some 98 per cent of the persons who are hospitalised, at this time, are unvaccinated”.
“So, from [that] perspective, it only makes sense to choose to get vaccinated,” the Principal pointed out.
Noting that COVID-19 vaccination is key to achieving the full resumption of in-person classes, Mr. Valentine said he was concerned that while individuals trust the medical experts on other health issues, they were hesitant to take their advice in relation to immunisation against the virus.
“They don’t trust the word of the doctors, epidemiologists, or virologists… but they’ll trust an article from someone on social media they don’t even know,” he lamented.
Against this background, Mr. Valentine commended the Health Ministry, and by extension, the Government, and other stakeholders for heightening public awareness about the vaccines through the blitzes, and other channels.
He said doing so “has ensured that information is readily available for those individuals who are hesitant”.
“So, I’m encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and refrain from listening to individuals who can mislead you regarding your taking the vaccine. The vaccines are safe. I took it and I’m feeling good. Go out and take the vaccine,” Mr. Valentine urged.
The message from senior citizen, Daphne Rowe, who got vaccinated at the blitz in Pembroke Hall, was simple and straightforward.
“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the right thing to do. It’s good for you, it’s good for your family, it’s good for your friends. Don’t listen to rumours. Just go and do your thing,” she urged.
Prime Minister Holness, who addressed residents at the Pembroke Hall blitz, praised the persons who have been immunised, describing them as heroes and heroines of the campaign.
“[You] have waded through the avalanche of misinformation and negative perceptions about vaccinations and have decided that [you] are going to do what is best, not only for [yourselves] and [your] families, but [also] the country. Please accept from me, on behalf of the entire [nation], thanks for taking the vaccine,” he stated.
Mr. Holness further invited them to become ambassadors for vaccination, by returning to their communities as examples their peers can emulate, while also expressing heartfelt gratitude to the healthcare workers for their invaluable role in the immunisation process.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke maintained that the country will be in a stronger position to overcome the pandemic “if hundreds of thousands of people are vaccinated”, adding that “when we do that, Jamaica will recover stronger”.
Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness indicate that up to October 7, a total of 809,471 doses of vaccine had been administered.
Of that number, 512,405 were first doses, 265,363 were second doses, and 31,703 were single doses (Johnson & Johnson).