Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, says it is important for persons who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to also turn up for their second dose.
She pointed out that persons can still become infected with the virus after receiving the first dose and should continue to protect themselves as they wait for the follow-up injection.
“The vaccine consists of two doses. You are only considered to be fully vaccinated 14 days or thereabouts after your second dose,” she said.
“The protection against COVID-19 increases after the first dose and it is best after receiving the second dose at approximately eight to 12 weeks after the first dose,” she added, while addressing a recent COVID Conversations press briefing.
Dr. Bisasor McKenzie said that the vaccine is effective in persons 18 years and older and has proven to “be 100 per cent effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths”.
“No person who received the vaccine in the studies that were done developed severe disease or died,” she pointed out.
Dr. Bisasor McKenzie said that the overall efficacy in initial studies for the vaccine is 70 per cent, in terms of the reduction of symptomatic disease in persons who have been inoculated compared to those who have not received the injection.
“After you’ve taken the first dose, the protection that you get, this 70-odd per cent efficacy rate, actually decreases over time and what some new studies are showing… is that after 90 to 120 days, you’re getting as low as 31 per cent efficacy rate. So there is a considerable decrease in the protection that is afforded if you do not get the second dose of the vaccine,” she outlined.
Dr. Bisasor McKenzie noted, further, that “if you have been exposed to COVID-19 before or after you’ve had your first dose, some persons will still get COVID-19”.
She assured that the vaccine “does not give you COVID-19. There is no virus in the vaccine. The symptoms you develop within 24 to 72 hours after is your body reacting to the vaccine. It is not that you are having COVID-19 or having mild COVID-19 symptoms. It is just your body’s reaction to the vaccine”.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ vaccination programme started on March 10, with 135,473 persons receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, to date, representing seven per cent of the target/population of 1,924,759.
Jamaica received its first shipment of 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India on March 8, a second shipment of 14,400 doses from the COVAX Facility on March 16, and a third shipment came through the African Medical Supply Platform, totalling 75,000 doses, on April 8.
Another shipment of 50,000 vaccines is expected soon from the COVAX facility.