Health ministry says all evidence points to vaccines being safe

October 06, 2021
Public health nurse Natasha Bently vaccinates Winston Grant  during a vaccination drive at the University Hospital of the West Indies last Thursday.
Public health nurse Natasha Bently vaccinates Winston Grant during a vaccination drive at the University Hospital of the West Indies last Thursday.

Director of Family Health Services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Melody Ennis, is renewing her calls for more persons to get vaccinated as the Government continues its push to inoculate at least 65 per cent of the population by March next year.

Speaking to THE STAR via telephone on Monday, Dr Ennis said she is aware of the hesitancy towards vaccination in the public, but stressed that the two vaccines currently available in the country - the two-dose AstraZeneca and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson - are safe.

"The vaccines that Jamaica has in country have been certified not only by the stringent regulatory authorities in the country that they were manufactured, but also by the World Health Organization (WHO) and, as such, they have been placed on their listing for use. We have two vaccines in country at this time that have met those requirements and we consider them to be safe and effective, as have been proven by the science," she said.

Dr Ennis reiterated that the vaccines are designed to prevent serious illness hospitalisation and/or death associated with COVID-19.

As of yesterday, more than 799,800 doses of vaccines have been administered. Of that amount, 510,486 were first doses, 258,562 second doses and 30,796 were single doses.

Dr Ennis also disclosed that while the ministry has received reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines, the public must not draw unhealthy conclusions about the safety of the vaccines.

"With regard to some numbers, looking at events that may occur post-vaccination, which of course include side effects, we have been speaking about such as pain, vomiting, dizziness, to name a few.

"We have received to date 497 such reports, which actually is 0.06 per cent of all the persons that have been inoculated. Now, of that 497 cases we have received, 89 would have been considered serious. When we look at that percentage, it is actually 0.011 per cent of individuals that have had one of those or more of those side effects to the vaccine."

The health ministry has disclosed that 11 persons have died after being vaccinated. However, the ministry said that none of the deaths are due to the COVID-19 vaccines. According to the ministry, nine of those cases were found to be due to other causes, making their vaccination coincidental. The other two deaths have been classified as indeterminate temporal, which means that while they occurred after the persons were vaccinated, there is no established link to their vaccination.

"Just based on our data here in country we see that the vaccines are definitely safe and they are, of course, effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalisation or death because of the COVID-19," Ennis said.

As of Monday, October 4, Jamaica has recorded 85,163 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,936 fatalities, 14 of which were reported yesterday. Among the dead is a seven-month-old male from St Catherine, whose death was previously under investigation.

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