FOUR covid wave may hit year end

Epidemiologist Professor Peter Figueroa has lobbied for a ramping up of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a fourth wave of the virus could hit Jamaica by year end.

That warning comes as the country emerges from the shadow of death that produced record fatalities in August during a summer of woe that caused hospitals to swell beyond capacity and oxygen supplies to evaporate.

“The coming of a fourth surge of COVID-19 is most likely, given the low vaccination coverage in Jamaica. Just over 20 per cent of the population has got one vaccine dose and just about 13 per cent are fully vaccinated. The surge could come as early as the next two months or three months,” the professor said in a dire caution as the Christmas holidays approach.

Figueroa said that mobilisation and outreach in communities are crucial to helping Jamaicans to better understand the importance of getting vaccinated.

“Just making announcements over the radio and running ads on TV are not going to do it. People need to have face-to-face, interpersonal opportunities to raise their concerns and have them answered,” said Figueroa, adding that it was “distressing” to see thousands of doses of vaccines expire.

The country discarded another 185,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which expired on October 31. Approximately 60,000 doses expired in September.

The health ministry has said that Jamaica’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines will increase by more than half a million doses this week.

Some 369,000 doses of AstraZeneca arrived on Monday, a gift from the Canadian government.

Another 204,000 doses of Pfizer are expected to arrive on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, is urging Jamaicans not to let their guard down and continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols amid an ease in the restrictions.

Multi-day lockdowns that were implemented late August have been abandoned and a blanket 8 p.m.-5 a.m. daily curfew has been imposed. That is expected to provide a boon to businesses that have suffered under reduced hours of operation.

Thousands of primary-school children are also expected to return to face-to-face classes on November 8.

“We need to ensure that people do not go overboard. We have been given an inch and we should not take a mile, like what has happened every single time before once restrictions have been eased,” Fitz-Henley said.

The JMDA president noted that a higher take-up of the COVID-19 vaccine is the only shield against a marked increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

“The ministry has put plans in place for the expected surge, some of which include bed sourcing, field hospitals, and oxygen supply. We are hopeful that with those things in place, we can try and minimise the effects that are seen, but until we can get enough people vaccinated, unfortunately it is predicted that we will have very high admission numbers and we cannot go back to where we were before,” Fitz-Henley said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in Parliament last Tuesday that a fourth wave was almost inevitable.

“Many countries are presently going through a fourth wave, but without the hospitalisations, because they have high vaccination levels,” Holness said.

Meanwhile, the Government has given the green light for 5,000 fully vaccinated spectators to attend the FIFA World Cup qualifying game against the United States at the National Stadium on November 16.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie said the authorisation system that has been developed will be used as a means of assisting various sectors to host events.

“We can use it for any formal event - sports, church, or wherever mass gatherings are going to be. It is going to be done on a controlled basis,” McKenzie said.


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