Health ministry changes Pfizer policy - Vaccine to be exclusive to children

October 15, 2021

Having been pummelled over its decision to give Pfizer vaccines to adults, thereby robbing children the opportunity to get vaccinated, Jamaica's health ministry is now finally correcting the questionable policy.

Portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton, speaking during the regularly held COVID Conversations, said that once persons who are due the Pfizer vaccines have been given their second shot, that brand will only be given to children.

"The decision has been taken that we will give the second jab to the adults and to all who require the second jab, including the youngsters who have got the first jab, but then after that we are going to commit all the Pfizer to the young people so that they can benefit from that vaccine that has been tried and tested for that population with the hope of getting our students back in the school system," Tufton said.

Previously, the Government's policy was that the Pfizer vaccine should have been prioritised for the estimated 214,000 children in secondary school. However, the soundness of that policy was questioned by lawmakers, with Juliet Holness and Lisa Hanna leading the criticisms.

Only 34,193 of a targeted 214,000 children between the ages of 12 and 18 have been fully vaccinated. Another 12,614 have received their first dose. Instead of reserving the Pfizer vaccines for children, health workers gave the majority of the 207,400 Pfizer doses to adults.

Pfizer is the only vaccine that has been approved for children 12 years and older. The Government has said that achieving a 65 per cent vaccination rate among students is critical to the resumption of face-to-face classes. To date, only 9.4 per cent of the high-school population has been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Tufton said that Jamaica will be getting just over 600,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the "next few weeks to a month", with 400,000 of the doses being gifts from the USA. The remainder has been purchased under the COVAX facility.

"We will get dosage of the Pfizer vaccine within the period to allow us to deliver our second dose and people not to feel as if they have been compromised in terms of the efficacy," said Tufton.

He said that countries like the USA, Canada, UK and Denmark have been giving the second shot up to 12 weeks after the first dose. The World Health Organization, however, recommends that the second shot be given within three to four weeks of the first.

The ministry has been pushing the take up of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson jab as an option for persons who fear needles. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also being administered.

As of yesterday, Jamaica has administered 860,570 doses of vaccine since the inoculation programme began six months ago. The Government has set a target of administering one million doses of vaccine by the end of December.

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