At first, Hortense Davis* was hesitant about taking the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
The Red Stripe employee told JIS News that she is not an antivaxxer, but she had heard so many stories disparaging the vaccines that she was scared to get the jab. “Everyone was saying, if you take it, yuh a go dead,” she said.
However, when her employer took steps to facilitate the vaccination of workers and their dependents, she decided to put her fears aside and get inoculated.
Ms. Davis, who spoke to JIS News at the vaccination blitz held recently, said she is convinced that the vaccines offer the best chance of protection against the virus, which has claimed so many lives in Jamaica and around the world.
“I was scared, but I think back to when we were children; we got vaccines and didn’t know what was in them, and we are fine now, so why not help our immune system fight the virus now.” she said.
Hundreds of employees of businesses along Spanish Town Road and their family members were inoculated against COVID-19 during the vaccine blitz.
The event was organised by companies along the industrial belt, in partnership with the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI).
More than 500 persons had pre-registered to receive doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines at the event held at the Red Stripe Brewery.
Participating entities were Red Stripe, Pepsi-Cola Jamaica, Celebration Brands Limited, Jamaica Biscuit Company and Massy Distributors.
Adrian Blake*, who also got his vaccine on the day, tells JIS News that he welcomed the initiative and is urging Jamaicans to take the vaccine.
“There is a lot of propaganda out there as it relates to the vaccines. However, vaccination is nothing new to us. It helps to build our immune system, so everybody should just get it,” said the Red Stripe employee.
Red Stripe’s Managing Director, Luis Prata, told JIS News that enabling employees to access vaccines on-site is critical in ensuring that they and their family members are protected against COVID-19, while facilitating business continuity.
“We recognised that as members of the business community we have a role to play to help Jamaica. We have a role to fight against COVID-19,” he said.
Cluster Director of Pepsi-Cola Jamaica Bottling Company, Antonio Travieso, said that the entity was pleased to partner with Red Stripe in the vaccination drive.
“We also have a lot of persons inside our facility who got vaccinated and hope to surpass 70 per cent, in order to decrease the risks for our employees,” he noted.
For his part, Human Resource Manager at Jamaica Biscuit Company, Sharon Laidlaw, told JIS News that 70 of the company’s team members registered for the vaccination blitz.
“We are very proud to be a part of it and wish to have more blitzes like this where we can have additional team members being a part of such a great initiative,” she said.
Executive Director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Imega Breese McNab, explained that the PSVI is a multi-stakeholder response, and an agent of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which facilitates the vaccination of the productive sector in Jamaica.
She disclosed that the initiative has facilitated more than 14,000 vaccinations of employees and their dependents since July 2021.
Companies can register for the initiative at the Girl Guides Headquarters on Waterloo Road in St. Andrew.
Mrs. Breese McNab is urging companies across the island to join the PSVI and organise vaccination blitzes at their company sites to “protect the viability of their organisations and the economic viability of the country”.
She said that getting the vaccines will help to preserve lives during the pandemic.
She further implored businesspeople across the island to “help the undecided make the choice that is beneficial for everyone by sharing factual information and educating [their] entire workforce”.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. the Hon. Norman Dunn, who attended the blitz, agreed that educating Jamaicans about the COVID-19 vaccines will help to reduce vaccine hesitancy.
“Persons are not necessarily resistant about getting [vaccinated]; they just want to ensure that the information [about the vaccines] is in fact [correct],” he pointed out.
He told JIS News that he is pleased that private sectors entities are “stepping up to the plate,” in combatting the pandemic.
“An event such as this, along the industrial belt, is very significant because what it has done is protect our productive capacity. Spanish Town Road has so many organisations that manufacture not just for Jamaica but [also for other regions],” he noted.
*Not Real Names