Vaccines protect against omicron, says Tufton | Loop Jamaica – Loop News Jamaica

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But expresses concern about Jamaica’s low vaccination rate
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, has expressed concern about Jamaica’s low vaccination rate amid the likelihood that the new omicron COVID-19 variant is already spreading locally.
At the same time, he assured that the COVID-19 vaccines work against the variant.
The comments come in light of a traveller from Jamaica who spent a short period in the island at a resort, testing positive for the new variant on arrival in the United Kingdom.
Speaking at a COVID conversation press briefing on Wednesday, Tufton shared that 20.4 per cent of Jamaica’s population is fully inoculated against the novel coronavirus.
“We have given 1.194 million vaccine doses, (with) 557,000 persons fully vaccinated, representing 20.4 per cent of the population. (Additionally), 25.9 per cent (or) just under 26 per cent of persons have had at least one dose,” he outlined.
For booster shots, a total of 2,631 shots have been administered, while 612 extended primary series or 30 doses have been administered, the minister shared.
Despite omicron being more transmissible, Tufton argued that the vaccines still offer some protection from the variant.
“Anyone with omicron can spread the virus by an infection rate of some 2.5, so it is highly contagious, and the current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalisation and death due to the infection with the omicron variant.
“So vaccines still remain an important response,” the minister stressed.
With Jamaica’s COVID-positivity rate increasing relative to the number of tests done on short-term travellers to the island, Tufton said this is sufficient evidence to “confirm that we have to be particularly careful about the possibility of this highly contagious variant strain of COVID-19 being in the population, and once here, moving from one person to the next.”
He elaborated that, “Of the more than 1,100 tests done in the last 36 hours by private facilities, we have, unusually so, recorded a seven per cent positivity rate from those PCR tests.
“Of the 76 positives of that 1,100 that were identified, these 76 represents one of the largest reporting of imported cases in the country since the start of the pandemic.”
In noting that Jamaica’s vaccine rate remains “relatively low” despite the threat of the likelihood of increase infections, Tufton urged Jamaicans to play their part in protecting themselves, including getting inoculated against COVID-19 and its variants.
“I do believe that we are at a stage now where we have the vaccines and we have provided the means… or the outlets, both by private and public initiatives, to get Jamaicans vaccinated.
“I think there is an issue of choice; we have settled that because we now have options in terms of brands (of vaccines)… and people can get on demand as long as they meet the requirements,” disclosed Tufton.
Continuing, he said: “Ultimately, I can’t force anyone to take a vaccine. We can’t hold people down and put a needle in their arm.
“… The idea of forcing persons to the vaccines – I don’t know how practical that is. I think persons need to come to terms with taking the vaccines, and to the extent that not taking it makes them a greater risk to others,” asserted the health and wellness minister.
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