Health, News, Regional News

Golding slams Gov’t’s multi-million-dollar vaccine marketing spend

Published 11 February, 2021


Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source


Mark Golding

In lambasting Prime Minister Andrew Holness for a “serious errors of mismanagement”, resulting in a COVID-19 spike, Opposition Leader, Mark Golding, has questioned the Government’s rationale for spending millions of dollars on a vaccine marketing campaign.

Instead, Golding has suggested that the money could be used to purchase additional vaccines for the island’s population.

Jamaica is set to receive between 146,400 and 249,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines later this month through the COVAX Facility.

According to media reports, approximately $422 million has been budgeted for a marketing campaign to be spearheaded by a company on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Wellness to counter vaccine resistance on the island.

But in a Facebook post on Wednesday, Golding slammed the move.

“How can we set a 16 per cent vaccination target when the world has said the only way back to normalcy is up to 70 per cent of the population being vaccinated? How can we justify a near $500-million marketing campaign instead of buying more vaccines?” he questioned.

In continuing, he quizzed: “How can Jamaicans, many who have not worked in a year, continue without help? Without a response from the Government to assist so many who are in need?”

Golding, who was elected People’s National Party (PNP) President last November, ripped into Holness’ management of the COVID-19 pandemic on the island, claiming he “politicised” COVID by calling early general elections for September 3 of last year.

“In August, PM Andrew Holness politicised COVID by calling an early election during the post-‘Emancipendence’ spike. The resulting onset of community spread was announced on the day after the election.

“He (Holness) failed to protect Jamaica. Instead, he put the JLP’s interests ahead of the nation’s interests,” Golding’s Facebook post stated.

It added: “Then in December, he (Holness) again left our country unprotected by allowing many thousands of Jamaicans to return to JA (Jamaica) for Christmas with no requirement for them to produce a current negative PCR test before being allowed to fly in.

“Only tourists were required to do that. Entirely predictably, the returning Jamaicans mingled with Jamaican residents, many ignored the quarantine rules, and they left COVID behind in abundance when they returned to foreign.”

The PNP president opined that “these two serious errors of mismanagement have led to the current unfolding health crisis, where UWI Hospital is now full to capacity, KPH and Spanish Town (hospitals) are at 90 per cent capacity, and we are having days with 400 positive cases and a positivity rate of over 20 per cent.”

In relation to Holness’ response to the present spike in COVID-19 cases, which includes new curfew hours of 8 pm to 5 am and reducing public gatherings from 15 to 10 persons, Golding was also equally critical.

“The earlier curfew hurts business and the economy, and may even be counter-productive in relation to gatherings,” he pointed out.

The Opposition leader lamented that “people want to see action”, pointing to the speed of vaccination efforts in the eastern Caribbean.

Against that background, he questioned whether the Government is also offered a gift of vaccines from India, similar to the gifts received by Barbados and Dominica.

“Barbados and Dominica now have a vaccine to immunise a substantial portion of their populations, by accepting a gift from India of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Was this also offered to us by India? Has Minister Tufton ignored their offer? The people deserve answers,” Golding added.

Despite the range of criticisms, Golding said the Opposition remains “ready and willing to engage constructively with the Government to try to identify a more effective response to the current crisis.”

Up to the time of the post on Wednesday, Golding said the Shadow Cabinet was to commence an emergency meeting in which it would consult with medical professionals.

The consultations were being held in relation to Holness’ response to the latest spikes in coronavirus cases, climaxing with a high of 403 positive cases on Monday.

The outcome of the Opposition consultations was not disclosed up to Thursday morning.

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