There’s a struggle at the heart of the Holness-administration over how to proceed with the country’s vaccination programme.
At the centre of the disagreement, is a stand off between the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet, on one hand, and officials at the Christopher Tufton-led Health and Wellness Ministry.
Sources in the administration are telling Nationwide News that the Health Ministry is under increasing pressure to take a position on a vaccine mandate for Jamaica, and to recommend what form it should take.
It’s understood that the Health Ministry has so far refused to do so. Citing guidelines from the World Health Organization, WHO, in its defense.
As Ricardo Brooks reports, there were tense moments at Cabinet on Monday this week when health officials faced down a government that’s growing increasingly impatient with the slow rate of vaccination in the country.
The tensions in the Holness-administration are emerging at a time when the country’s vaccination rate is declining and vaccination hesitancy is taking hold.
Over the last few weeks the daily vaccination take up rate has seen a dramatic fall off in numbers, with only about 4,000 people being vaccinated on average daily.
Last week was particularly dismal, with only 9,000 people receiving a first dose of the vaccine.
Thousands more have so far refused to turn up for their second dose.
This grim reality confronts the government, which is seeking a solution to boost vaccination numbers.
It’s understood the Cabinet has started to explore the options for a vaccine mandate in Jamaica.
Our sources say Prime Minister Holness and his Ministers were provided with a brief on the various types of mandates implemented so far across the world, and their implications.
It’s understood the Cabinet requested that the public health team recommend what type of vaccine mandate would suit Jamaica.
The team is said to have refused, expressing concerns that such a recommendation would be contrary to the World Health Organization guidance, and the positions taken by several international public health bodies.
Our sources say the reluctance of the health team to make a recommendation infuriated several Ministers. They are now blaming the Health Ministry for the failing vaccination programme.
There are also questions being raised about the leadership being provided by the Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
Nationwide sources have revealed that the Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dunstan Bryan, has come in for the sharpest criticism, with several members of the Cabinet questioning whether he remains the right man to move the programme forward.
Mr. Bryan’s performance before Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, PAAC, today may help to fuel those questions.
The Permanent Secretary today pushed back against criticisms leveled at his team yesterday by MP for East Rural St. Andrew, Juliet Holness.
Mrs. Holness is the wife of the Prime Minister.
There are now questions as to why the Cabinet has so far not made a decision on mandatory vaccination.
As another vaccine expiration deadline looms at the end of the month, the country is facing the prospect of dumping several thousand more doses of the vaccine.
There’s no word yet as to how the government will move forward.