By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, has reiterated that a high level of COVID-19 vaccinations is necessary for the island to return to normal, reports JIS.
“The population needs to have our health status [at a level] where, if we are to have the coronavirus, the probability of a fatal event, or the probability of having to be hospitalised with a serious form of the illness is significantly reduced, and that is why we are promoting vaccination,” said prime minister Holness. “Eventually, and I am not saying this in a long-term perspective, in the very near future, the government will change its tact in how we have managed the pandemic.”
The prime minister added, “I am deliberately avoiding the word mandate, because, ultimately, in the minds of some Jamaicans it conjures up an infringement of their rights, and there are those who interpret the word mandate to be compulsory and forced, and somehow the government is going to hold you down and inject you. This is not the intention of the government and if there are Jamaicans who have that view, I would like to put those fears to rest.”
Prime minister Holness noted during his visit to the Redemption Faith Church vaccination centre in Calderwood and the Alexandria Community Hospital, both in St Ann, that close to 150 persons were seen at the Alexandria Community Hospital taking the COVID-19 vaccine, outlined that many of these residents in Alexandria participate in overseas work programmes.
“They are taking their vaccines because many of them have to travel, many of them are on the farm-work programme and the hotel-work programme and they recognise that their health status is critical to their economic status. There are many Jamaicans who do not make that connection, that my ability to [for example], [reopen] my bar fully and have all my customers there is connected to how quickly we all get vaccinated so we can return to normal,” he said.
“They don’t make the connection that the quicker we take the vaccine, the quicker our children can go back to school, and these connections have to be made in the minds of the people so they can dispel the rumour mongers, the traders in falsehoods, and those who would seek to politicise and take advantage of the ignorance of people. We [must] educate the people and encourage them. As we celebrate Heroes Week and Heroes Day coming up, the essence of the struggle of Jamaica is about freedom, and as prime minister of this country I would never do anything that would restrict or take away the freedoms of the people, but freedom comes with responsibility,” Holness pointed out.
Meanwhile, minister of health and wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says every effort must be made to reduce the incidents of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as these beset too many Jamaicans: (COVID-19) has increased the vulnerability of persons to poor health outcomes while presenting a significant challenge to the economy. Approximately 15 percent of the health budget is being spent on ailments associated with NCDs.
“It is essential, therefore, that every effort be made to put the brakes on NCDs, with which so many of our people are not only living, but from which they are also dying,” the Minister told his audience, adding that 70 percent of Jamaicans die each year from an NCD. Given this context, the ministry of health and wellness has prioritised food labelling as one of a number of needed interventions,” he said while highlighting that, among other things, FOPLs are intended to “transparently and clearly” indicate to consumers whether the pre-packaged product is within the established recommendations for health, with specific reference to salt, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat content.
“The evidence is, however, that a number of health conditions are caused or otherwise exacerbated by a high-salt diet. The effect on blood pressure, stroke and heart disease is where the strongest evidence lies, but there is a wide body of evidence showing a link between salt consumption and other conditions,” Dr Tufton said.
– With a file from Serena Grant and Garfield L. Angus.