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Vaccination has been a major disease prevention tool in Jamaica for over 100 years. The use of vaccines began with the Act to Establish a System of General Vaccination in 1868. Since then, vaccination has led to sharp decreases in illness and death from ailments, such as diphtheria and poliomyelitis and the elimination of measles from the island in 1991.

What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a type of medicine that protects the body against a specific illness. It creates an immune response, causing the production of antibodies that prevent the disease.

Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines reduce the risks of getting a disease, and help people of all ages live longer, healthier lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines currently prevent two to three million deaths every year from diseases like tetanus, pertussis and influenza. Vaccination is also essential to the prevention and control of infectious-disease outbreaks, such as in the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccines

In its effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 on the island, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has secured vaccines which are being distributed. The GOJ has also launched a vaccination programme aimed at inoculating at least 65 per cent of the population by March 2022.

The COVID-19 vaccines included in Jamaica’s COVID-19 vaccination programme are made by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, United Kingdom as well as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, both based in the United States of America.

Viral Vector Vaccines

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is a viral vector. With this type, the virus – a deactivated cold virus, is used as a shell to transport the genetic instructions for the spike proteins found on the coronavirus. The virus carrying the instructions enters the cell, which then builds proteins identical to those found on the COVID-19 virus. When this is done, the immune system recognises these proteins and kills them. The body memorises the proteins, so that in the event that the coronavirus enters the body, it is destroyed.

According to WHO, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has an efficacy of 63.09 per cent and is intended to prevent coronavirus infection in persons 18 years of age and older. It is administered in two doses, separated by no fewer than 28 days and no more than 84 days.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also of the viral vector type. WHO notes that it is up to 66.9 per cent effective against COVID-19 infection in people 18 years of age and older. It is administered in one dose.

mRNA Vaccines

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is made using messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA). This is a molecule that provides cells with genetic instructions for making proteins that are essential to bodily functions, such as immune response. The mRNA carries the information that instructs the body’s cells to develop spike proteins identical to those found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. The immune system recognises, kills and subsequently memorises these proteins to protect the body from future COVID-19 infection.

According to WHO, the Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy of approximately 95 per cent in protecting against COVID-19 in persons 12 years of age and older. It is administered in two doses 21 days apart.


For additional information, contact:

Ministry of Health & Wellness

10-16 Grenada Way

Kingston 5

Telephone: 876-633-8172, 876-633-7771, 888-663-5683 (COVID-19 hotline)



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