Health Ministry preparing response to concerns after AstraZeneca withdraws vaccine

Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, speaking with 'Hotline' host Emily Shields on Friday
By Clinton McGregor 
The Ministry of Health is preparing a report to respond to growing public concern over the AstraZeneca vaccine which has been withdrawn from the market due to concerns of serious side effects linked to the vaccine.
The manufacturer recently announced that it has withdrawn the vaccine from the market for "commercial reasons", adding that the jab was no longer being manufactured or supplied, having been superseded by updated vaccines that tackle new variants. 
The decision came just months after the company admitted in a court case, in England, that the vaccine caused rare side effects, including bloodclots.
Shadow Minister of Health & Wellness Dr. Alfred Dawes on Thursday called for the Ministry of Health to articulate its position on the recent developments regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Speaking Friday on Radio Jamaica's Hotline, Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton disclosed that the ministry is preparing a response.
However, Dr. Tufton defended the government's vaccine programme during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We took a very conservative position on the distribution of vaccines to our population. We insisted at all times that vaccines should go through the various expert committees and validation and final sanctioning by the World Health Organization and their expert committees. There are some countries that did not do that. There were other vaccines that were available on the market, which we could have accessed earlier, which we did not based on that highest standard of validation that we insisted on.
"So we believe as a country, as a government, we took the right approach and I am prepared to still maintain that Jamaicans were safer for the vaccine," he maintained. 
The minister, who said he preferred to be briefed by the clinical team before giving a more fulsome comment, was unable to recall on the spot whether the government had granted an exemption to AstraZeneca for any liability regarding the safety of the vaccine.
But he insisted said the government should not be held liable for any deaths associated with the vaccine, arguing that the shot saved the lives of thousands of Jamaicans during the global pandemic. 
"We went through a validation process. We were very conservative and we offered the vaccine to every Jamaican who wanted, who opted to take it. Clearly, government has an overall responsibility to protect the country and the nation, particularly in a crisis, such as this one. And I still very much believe that...we did the right thing," he said, adding that his only regret is that more than 3,000 Jamaicans died from COVID-19. 

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