Updated: Mar 31, 2021
Most persons may not know that Jamaica’s “national coverage levels for the basic childhood vaccines are generally over 90%” (www.phao.org).
It was in 1977 at the age of 10, during a period of the government’s aggressive fight against the impact of infectious deceases such as polio, chicken pox, cholera, yellow fever, measles, etc., that I was vaccinated at the Springfield All Age School in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. I can still remember the day of ‘mass vaccinations’, part of the Expanded Programme on Immunization conducted by the Ministry of Health. Many students lined up to take their ‘shots’ to protect them against these dangerous viruses.
As I stood in the long line, I remembered being so scared as I nervously watched the nurse prepare the needle, syringe and vaccine for my injection. Then she said, “It won’t hurt much, just sit still”. By then, my body was tense from the fear that gripped me. She then proceeded to force the thick needle into the soft flesh of my upper arm. It was so painful, like nothing I had ever felt before. I screamed out loudly as she forced the vaccine into my body. I felt a stinging, piercing sensation as she quickly removed the needle and covered up the spot with a piece of wet cotton. I knew instantly something was happening to me; clearly a foreign object had entered my body. The next day I woke up with a rash, swollen and scarred upper right arm, which has remained with me like "the mark of the beast".
Are the new Coronavirus Vaccines a Curse or Cure?
The vaccine debate has been raging for many centuries and the Coronavirus pandemic has placed it once again, front and center, in many discussion threads. Those who believe it is a ‘curse’ base this on their religious beliefs as well as the belief that vaccines can seriously impact their health, for example, the anti-vaxxers who believe vaccines cause autism. Those who believe it is a ‘cure’ base this on the high levels of mortality and morbidity in populations with low vaccination rates, such as Asia and Africa.
This very relevant question of whether the Coronavirus vaccine will be a curse or a cure will be answered in short order, as approved COVID-19 vaccines become available globally. In November 2020, a Gallup poll found that only 58% of Americans polled indicated that they would be taking the Coronavirus vaccines (news.gallup.com). Many persons continue to raise concerns about the safety and efficacy of the new Coronavirus vaccines. However, recent randomized clinical trials conducted have shown that the vaccines have as much as a 95% efficacy, Pfizer-BioNTech (pfizer.com).
The provision of emergency use authorization for two Coronavirus vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, is most timely, considering the upsurge in the number of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths across the world, which now stands at an alarming 89.2 million and 1.92 million respectively (google.com). The distribution and administration of the Coronavirus vaccines will take time to reach all countries, and experts anticipate that ‘full herd immunity’ could occur in late 2021 for the United States of America (cnbc.com). They also urged that we continue to wear our masks, practice social distancing and wash our hands continuously.
Dr. DF’s Views
After reading, watching my favourite news channels (CNN and MSNBC) and engaging with many discussion threads and based on my own experiences 15 years in the health sector the following are my views:
Research has confirmed that vaccines have been an effective cure for several infectious diseases. In fact, a number of infectious diseases such as smallpox, has been eradicated worldwide due to the successful administration of immunity vaccines. There has been little evidence to support the notion that vaccines are a curse. Most clinical trials and studies show that vaccines tend to have some side effects including swelling, seizures, fever, allergic reactions, etc. These side effects are not usually life threatening, however, persons with severe adverse allergic reactions to vaccines are urged not to take the Coronavirus vaccines, unless under doctor’s supervision.
While we wait for the arrival and distribution of the Coronavirus vaccine, we cannot afford to become complacent as the threat and danger from Coronavirus are still very real. I implore everyone to continue to wear your masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. As soon as the Coronavirus vaccines are available to you, consult with your physician for clearance and then rush to the closest medical health facility to take it. It is the responsible thing to do. Remember this is the fastest way to create herd immunity. The more persons who get vaccinated will help to quickly slow down the spread and ultimately, destroy the Coronavirus. Remember that the ‘health benefits will be tremendous’; taking the Coronavirus vaccines will save thousands of lives and reduce the illnesses associated with the virus.
I plan on taking the Coronavirus vaccine, without any reservations, when it becomes available to the general public. Like many people, I have taken many vaccines previously based on the Government of Jamaica Expanded Programme on Immunization. I am blessed to have dual citizenship, Jamaica and Canada, which means that I will have the option to access the Coronavirus vaccines in two countries. There is an obvious difference between countries’ access to the vaccines; richer, larger countries have secured most of the vaccines in advance. Canada has already accessed these vaccines, Jamaica has not yet. With this in mind, I plan to travel to Canada to access the Coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available to my family and me. For now, though, I must confess that I feel safer in Jamaica, especially considering the massive upsurge in positive cases and deaths in North America.
I have not identified any Government that has taken the decision to make the taking of the Coronavirus vaccines mandatory. I am sure it is under much consideration though, understanding that the word “mandatory” will not be used. However, it will be a requirement to travel to many countries and attend popular educational institutions worldwide. My own position is that the taking of the Coronavirus vaccines should be made mandatory. I know this is a controversial position to take. Additionally, I think a medical doctor should be allowed to provide medical exemptions to persons who may have potential adverse reactions to the vaccines. Under such a program, we should all be issued with a ‘Coronavirus Passport’, in the form of a bar-coded portable physical or electronic instrument as proof that a person has been administered the Coronavirus vaccine from an approved health provider. After a prescribed period, persons who fail to take the vaccines should be prevented from overseas travel, attending school and work, access to Government offices, public events, etc.
I also believe that Governments should make the Coronavirus vaccines free to their citizens. Governments should take responsibility for the purchasing and distribution of the vaccines throughout their countries to the public and private sectors. To enhance global safety and security, richer nations should subsidize the Coronavirus vaccines for poorer countries, as well as turn over any excess they have ordered. The richer countries should utilize agencies such as the United Nation, UNICEF, UNAIDS, WHO, PAHO, etc. to coordinate and distribute the Coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries. Special focus should be placed on those countries experiencing famine, wars and other tragic events. Governments should also ensure that regulations are put in place to protect against price gouging and inequities in the distribution of the vaccines. If a charge is levied on the vaccines, it should only be placed for the administering of the shots in private and public health facilities.
To reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries ought to continue to grant emergency approvals for the use of the Coronavirus vaccines to provide early protection for their citizens. I support a phased distribution of the Coronavirus vaccines starting with the most vulnerable people in countries like Jamaica. This should include health care workers and elderly people with comorbidities and the program could be similar to that being implemented by the United States of America as follows:
1. Senior US government officials
2. Health care workers, nursing home staff and residents
3. Other essential workers
4. Immunocompromised (people with underlying medical conditions)
5. Older adults;
6. Everyone else.
Clearly, taking of the vaccines will be critical to returning our lives to some form of normality. In Jamaica, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica reported that the economy contracted by 18% between April to June of 2020, and this has significantly impacted people’s quality of life. Jamaica’s economy depends largely on the tourism, manufacturing and agriculture industries, which are all connected industries. The Government will have to develop specific policies geared towards restarting and reengaging these industries, by giving workers in these industries early access to the vaccines. Additionally, the educational system has been severely impacted by the pandemic. The result is that significant portions of the productive workforce have been forced to work from home to facilitate home care and schooling. Teachers and students should also be provided priority access to the vaccines to facilitate the early reopening of all schools.
Although much is still unknown about the Coronavirus vaccines at this time, new learning will occur as the vaccines are administered across the world. The countries that will receive the Coronavirus vaccines later, must benchmark the experiences of those countries that would have implemented their vaccination programmes earlier. All indication is that most vaccinations will be done using vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. Only Pfizer and Moderna have been approved for emergency use at this time. As more vaccines are approved, vaccinations will increase globally, resulting in ‘herd immunity’. PAHO/WHO is helping countries like Jamaica secure vaccines for 10% of its population by April 2021. Poorer countries should invest with vaccine manufacturers who will be receiving approvals at a later date. Hopefully, the price for these vaccines will be lowered in time, which will facilitate more countries accessing them at a faster rate for their people.
Jamaica has a distributed primary, secondary and tertiary health system. Like many third world countries, Jamaica will have to be very proactive in planning for the distribution and administration of the Coronavirus vaccines. The Coronavirus vaccines could be administered across the 14 parishes of the country, via the public and private health sectors. The public health facilities include 11 major hospitals, 13 health departments, 300 health centers and many pharmacies. Additionally, the Coronavirus vaccines can be administered through private health facilities, which comprises of 5 hospitals, numerous doctor’s offices, diagnostic centers, old age homes and pharmacies. At some stage, I suggest that the Coronavirus vaccines should be dispense in schools to students and teachers alike.
Finally, developing and sustaining an effective ‘cold chain’ to sustain the efficacy of the Coronavirus vaccines will be challenging for some countries. Cold chains are vital to the fast recovery of many mission critical industries in all countries. The existence of limited or under-developed cold chains in some countries, requires that additional investments be made to provide adequate support for the distribution and administration of the Coronavirus vaccines. Moving Coronavirus vaccines from the port of entries to the targeted distribution sites and health facilities, will require more transportation and storage resources in Jamaica. The Government will therefore have to strengthen the existing cold chain logistics to meet the expected demand.'
The successful administration of the Coronavirus vaccines will significantly curtail/eliminate the high rate of mortality and morbidity occurring at this time. The randomized studies conducted on the Coronavirus vaccines so far have resulted in as high as 95% efficacy and with little or no major side effects. There remains many skepticisms on the Coronavirus vaccines, with some raising questions whether it will be a ‘curse or cure’. After the deaths of 1.92 million people worldwide, the debate about ‘curse or cure’ is immaterial at this point in time. Saving lives should be the priority. I suggest that we all should get in line to take the Coronavirus vaccines when it is available to us. Be a part of the cure!!!
When the vaccine is available, I will be joining a line for my shot! I man seh “Life Ova Death”.
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I have compiled some important information about vaccines that you may find useful.
1. The history of the vaccine began way back in 1000 Common Era in China, when the Chinese utilized smallpox inoculation.
2. Edward Jenner, an English physician, invented the smallpox vaccine in 1776.
3. Relevant definitions:
a. Immunization – the changes the body go through after a vaccine is administered.
b. Vaccination – the process of placing the vaccine into the body.
c. Inoculation – the process of giving a person a vaccine.
4. When the body receive vaccines, it develops protective antibodies that protect the body against the virus.
5. Herd immunity occurs when enough persons in a population are vaccinated to give protection to all.
6. A vaccine injection can cause the following:
a. Swelling, redness and a small, hard lump at the site of the injection.
b. An immediate allergic reaction from the injection, causing itching or swelling.
c. Leads to a seizure that is usually accompanied with high fevers.
7. The typical vaccines take 10-15 years to be developed. Some of the Coronavirus vaccines took less than 1 year to be developed.
8. Persons who have a severe allergic response to anaphylaxis, should not be issued the Coronavirus vaccine, except under doctor’s supervision.
9. Over 90% of people living in 67 low income countries will not be vaccinated against Covid-19 in 2021.
10.The richest countries in the world with only 14% of the world’s population, have purchased 53% of the eight most promising vaccines.
11.Over 95 Coronavirus vaccines are presently in testing; only two have been approved for emergency use, Pfizer and Moderna.
12.The taking of the vaccines is not mandatory in any country.
13.None of the Coronavirus vaccines under testing consists of live vaccines.
14. It takes a few weeks after taking the Coronavirus vaccine for the body to build full immunity.
15. After receiving the Coronavirus vaccines, a positive test will not result when a viral test is administered.
16. A person who had COVID-19 can be re-infected. It is therefore recommended that everyone takes the Coronavirus vaccine, even after infection.
17.Vaccines are being issued to first responders, medically compromised aged persons, dignitaries, etc. in United Kingdom and United States of America.
18.New variants of the Coronavirus have been confirmed in United Kingdom, South Africa, United States of America, Jamaica, etc. Experts believe the Coronavirus vaccines should protect against these evolving and mutating viruses.
19. The Coronavirus vaccines do not alter or modify the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) of a person when it is taken. The Coronavirus vaccines contain messenger ribonucleic acid that works with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection against deceases.
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