Well over 2,000 tourism workers in Jamaica have been vaccinated using one of three vaccines made available to them at a number of strategic blitz sites organized by the new Tourism Vaccination Task Force, in its first three days of major activities. The Task Force, which was established to facilitate the vaccination of all tourism workers island-wide, has organized a series of vaccination blitzes, with the first being held on August 30.
Following on the vaccination of 1,200 workers at the Pegasus Hotel on August 30, over two days (September 2-3) Sandals Negril saw some 556 tourism workers taking their choice of vaccines, while at the Moon Palace in Ocho Rios on Friday, September 3, some 385 workers were vaccinated. However, Moon Palace had a previous blitz where 320 workers received the jab and to date 60 percent of its staff have been vaccinated.
Jamaica Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, and Co-Chair of the Tourism Vaccination Task Force, Clifton Reader, were on location at the Moon Palace vaccination site to observe the operations there and to thank the teams that are working together including the nurses and doctors from the private sector who are engaged in the process.
Minister Bartlett said, “the initiative is a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), and the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) to drive the vaccination of the 170,000 workers of the industry across all sub-sectors.”
While conceding that this was a tall order, Mr. Bartlett was optimistic as “we are seeing the willingness of the workers now as evidenced by the outturns that we have seen in the last 3 days since the program has started.”
He said more blitz sites are to be set up in Negril, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and the South Coast with the hope of vaccinating up to 600 persons per day at each. “The intention is not to impose on the existing health infrastructure to enable this vaccination program, so the doctors, nurses and all infrastructural arrangements are being provided by us through the coalition,” he said.
The Minister made a personal appeal to workers in the tourism industry, their families and close friends to access these specially arranged blitz sites which are offering the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines free of cost. “We turn no one away,” he underscored.
Meanwhile, Mr. Reader who is also President of the JHTA and managing director of Moon Palace, said a previous blitz for the hotel’s staff “went so well that this time we decided to open it up to not only the families of our employees but the craft traders, the transport operators, the villa workers and those in attractions.” Persons who receive their initial dose at Moon Palace will also be invited back for their second dose.
The entire ground floor of the hotel’s west-wing was opened up for the blitz site and participants walked through an automated sanitizing shower before entering the venue where they were also treated to an audio visual presentation on the COVID-19 virus and vaccines.
Mr. Reader said large hotels with the capacity to do so, have been encouraged to pay the administrative fee to ensure that anyone who showed up would not have to pay anything to be vaccinated. “We want a safe working environment for our people and the only way to do that is through vaccination,” said Mr. Reader.
Spa Attendant at Moon Palace, Chevanise Williams said she understood that taking the vaccine was not a cure for COVID-19 but “if you catch the virus, you know that the symptoms will be less severe, so it is … important for me to take it, because I should protect my family and also persons coming here as well.”