Mothers are concerned about their newborn’s health after leaving hospitals without them receiving the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine. The Jamaica Monitor understands that babies birthed as early as 30 September 2021, through to the first week in October, have yet to receive the jab.
However, Nurse Pelikins (not her real name), who normally administers the BCG vaccine, said the shortage began as far back as August. She said, “All the health facilities in the south-east region are impacted, that is, Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas.”
She noted that the purpose of the BCG vaccine is to protect against tuberculosis. “Tuberculosis is very contagious. It is spread by droplets, meaning if a person coughs or sneezes and the person who is not protected is around them, they can get tuberculosis,” she said.
Pelikins added that this could potentially lead to a tuberculosis epidemic. “It is really scary, because unlike other diseases that we have eradicated with immunization, we are still having a challenge eradicating tuberculosis. So, we still have pockets of communities in Jamaica with tuberculosis, so the infants are at risk of catching tuberculosis,” she said.
She advised parents to be very cautious as the shortage of the BCG vaccine is not expected to be addressed until mid-October.
However, Cristal Kennedy, who gave birth on 5 October 2021, says she was not given a specific time. “Yuh nuh know if a next month. Yuh nuh know when, suh yuh jus affi keep yuh fingers crossed. I feel scared, caz yuh nuh know what can happen.”
Kennedy says that the nurses have not contacted her with news of the vaccine since delivery. “Mi not even can blame the hospitals caz a di government on a whole. Dem a focus pon one thing and that’s Covid! Suh me wudda blame the bigga heads dem,” she said.
Another mother, who gave birth on 2 October 2021, said that her son already has breathing problems and that she feels unsafe. “I felt like things are not in order anymore, things are just all over the place! I was disappointed. I don’t feel safe and I have to travel with him to the clinic and all a dat. I feel like they’re putting more energy into getting COVID vaccines and not focusing on the other necessary things like these,” she said.
Ackemma Duffus said she was upset and worried when she learnt that her baby would not get the jab. “The health system is really slack! The babies supposed to come first, because their immune system is weak and they cannot fight anything!” she said.
Nikiesha Lindesay says where she lives makes it hard for her to keep her baby unexposed. She added that she has to be constantly checking for the availability of the vaccines. “They only did tell me to check back the other day and I did go back up there the other day, but there wasn’t any,” she said.