Vaccination pace suggests Jamaica might have to play catch-up, says officialMonday, July 26, 2021
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
INSTEAD of toying with the idea of a vaccine mandate, the Government should be considering the implications of the slow pace of vaccination in the face of new variants of COVID-19, and whether the country could find itself in a precarious situation with its vaccination target.
That is the view of family physician, Dr Marc Ricketts who says given the pace of vaccination roll-out here, Jamaica will have to play catch-up, as by the time health authorities get one million people vaccinated current vaccines would have become outdated.
“Pfizer has already said there is going to have to be another vaccine soon. Inasmuch as they are not coming out and stating that the vaccine is less and less effective with the new variants, the evidence is there. So, we can take forever to vaccinate our population and see what happens by the time we reach halfway into it, or maybe a third, and we don't get to the next two thirds yet. Maybe that's one of the things we should be looking at while talking about a possible mandate,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
The medical doctor was speaking against the background of statements made by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton at a parliamentary committee meeting last week, pointing to vaccination mandates and policy being implemented by other jurisdictions, to bump up numbers, as the world desperately races towards herd immunity against COVID-19.
Dr Tufton said it is anticipated that as vaccinations here move towards the one-million mark, it will be harder to get the remaining numbers to meet the two-million target by next March. He said there would come a point when the Government must consider other measures, pointing to countries such as France where proof of vaccination is required to enter restaurants, and other public facilities. Ricketts said he was against any vaccine mandate move, pointing to the Nuremburg code which sets out research ethics principles for human experimentation. The code resulted from the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II.
It states that persons should have legal capacity to give consent, and exercise free power of choice “without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision”.
It says the nature, duration and purpose of the experiment, all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected, and the effects upon a person's health or person which may come from his participation in the experiment, should be made known.
Dr Ricketts believes COVID-19 vaccination, notwithstanding completion of clinical trials, is a massive experiment. “The use of this vaccine skipped animal trials so, as it relates to the long-term effects of these vaccines, we still don't know – which would ultimately make this an experiment.
This is actually a study we are living in and, according to the Nuremburg code, any such experimental study, at the basis of it must be consent – and without consent I can't agree with a vaccine mandate,” he stated. The physician said the rights of persons not to take the vaccine should be respected, even if others do not agree with that choice.
“If you're going to start ignoring rights which were put there to protect us from certain situations, on the premise of this being an emergency, where do you stop?”Meanwhile, Government Senator Kavan Gayle says the Government may expose itself to constitutional challenges. “When we are embarking on these actions, then in the first instance one has to determine if the individual rights are absolute when contrasted with public health mandates and [if] will it override a compulsory vaccination mandate,” he said.
Instead, he said the Government should aggressively pursue moral suasion and educational strategies for as long as is possible. “I am of the profound view that we are not yet at the stage to speak about an action that is going to be mandatory. We should first consult around any such strategies that [are] going to inform a policy direction, so consultation is important.
So, the Government should work at promoting a policy that offers guidance for employers and employees on workplace vaccination, and guidance to the population around the need to vaccinate. I believe we must pursue educational campaigns as far and as practicable as possible,” he asserted. He stressed also that access to vaccines must be placed front and centre.
“If they can't come for it, take it to them. You have situations where people don't like the crowd, don't like the long line out by National Arena. Work on the mechanism to make it available. Go to the workplace with it, go to the schools with it. Come to us with it.”
The senator said he was totally against vaccination through coercion of any form, whether directly or indirectly. “You have employers who are sending these subliminal messages around it. When you're going to prescribe in employment relations that you must take the vaccine – I've not seen it presented, but there is the thought. No employer has come to us about mandatory vaccination.”
He noted, too, that the availability of a variety of vaccines could have a positive effect on take-up. The Government expects vaccine supplies of 1.4 million doses, and 950,000 more persons to take the jab over the next three months.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login