KINGSTON, Jamaica, September 12, 2021 – The Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination Implementation Program has been endorsed by the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) and its affiliates.
JCTU executive members, led by President, Helene Davis Whyte, publicly pledged their support for the initiative during a press conference hosted by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, on Friday (September 10).
The occasion was also used to announce a partnership between the Ministry and JCTU to facilitate expanded coronavirus (COVID-19) sensitization and vaccination of thousands of employees in the workplace.
This will serve to complement efforts already implemented in several entities where the unions have strong membership.
Stakeholder discussions initiated in this regard will continue with a view to concluding these in short order and embarking on the vaccination exercise.
Speaking during the press conference, Dr. Tufton thanked the JCTU representatives for agreeing to partner with the Ministry.
He noted that COVID-19 has had a “debilitating” impact on the working class, as is has had on the wider population.
“Indeed, we have seen a drop in gross domestic product (GDP), which means economic activity [has been affected]. Clearly [this] has implications, not just for employers, but for employees [as] we have seen over 100,000 jobs lost,” the Minister pointed out.
Additionally, he said that from a public health standpoint, “many persons [have been] grappling with mental issues from restrictions [on] their freedom to move about to seek their best endeavors and interests in their own way.”
Dr. Tufton said the pandemic, which has seen Jamaica recording over 75,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,800 deaths, to date, and stretching the resources and capacity of the public health system, is a critical challenge, requiring a unified approach to identifying the most effective response.
He maintained that while the non-clinical measures, such as wearing masks and hand sanitizing, have worked reasonably well, “the most effective response, as attested globally, has to be vaccination.”
Noting that Jamaica has an adequate supply of vaccines, totaling over one million doses, with more expected over the coming months, Dr. Tufton said the JCTU’s support will augur well to reaffirm their efficacy and safety.
“The vaccines represent the most significant response [for] our people and country [against COVID-19], and to getting us back to normal,” the Minister added.
For her part, Mrs. Davis Whyte pointed out that COVID-19 is having a deleterious effect on workers, largely due to unemployment and underemployment, resulting from business closures, curfews, and lockdowns.
Additionally, she said that the JCTU is concerned about the increasing numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and the high level of hesitancy and low take-up of the vaccines.
Mrs. Davis Whyte, who is also General Secretary for the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO), said it is against this background that the JCTU decided to partner with the Health Ministry to take vaccines to workers at their places of work, where it will be more accessible to them.”
Other JCTU officers attending the press conference included: Vice President and Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP) General Secretary, St. Patrice Ennis; Assistant General Secretary and University and Allied Workers Union (UWU) Vice President, Clifton Grant; and Executive Member and Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) President-General, Kavan Gayle, who all delivered brief remarks.
Also joining virtually was Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) Third Vice President, Clarence Frater.