Kingston, Jamaica, June 1, 2022 (PAHO) - Primary healthcare workers play an important role in keeping communities safe through the delivery of routine and COVID-19 immunizations. Nurse Christine Smart-Guy, the public health nurse responsible for immunizations at the Kitson Town Health Centre in rural St. Catherine is proud to promote immunizations.
"Jamaican children no longer need to suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases such as mumps, rubella, polio and measles. Immunizations play an important role in the health of our nation and I am proud to promote health through routine immunizations and the COVID-19 vaccine," shared the passionate health worker.
Nurse Christine Smart-Guy, who started her career over twenty-eight years ago and transitioned to become a public health nurse in 2009, has been based at the Kitson Town Health Centre for the past eight years.
The Kitson Town Health Centre is in the heart of the community and serves 26,000 residents, with close connections to the two primary schools and one secondary school in the area. The immunization team working at the health centre consists of thirteen community health aides and two midwives, led by Nurse Smart-Guy.
“The health centre serves as a one-stop-shop, offering pre-natal and post-natal care, dental care, mental health services, telemedicine, and pharmacy support. The diverse offerings at the centre are very beneficial for our immunization programme because it provides multiple opportunities to engage with community members for the promotion of routine and COVID-19 immunizations,” shared Nurse Smart-Guy.
Mrs. Jennifer Jones, a community health aide, has worked at Kitson Town for the past nineteen years and is a member of the immunization team. Community health aides offer support for maternal and child health services. Like Nurse Smart-Guy, she is passionate about immunization and the opportunities that her work provides.
“Each day and week in the life of a community health aide is different. Some days are dedicated to conducting community surveillance, promoting the COVID-19 vaccine and visiting the homes of patients who have missed appointments for routine immunizations. Other days, we work at the health centre to support the public health nurse and the flow of patients. It is a varied role, but I enjoy it,” shared Mrs. Jones.
She continued, “Vaccines are important. I often tell my patients that polio was eradicated from Jamaica because of vaccines and getting immunized allows children to be safe, while the COVID-19 vaccine helps us to reduce the chances of hospitalization from the virus.”
Nurse Smart-Guy was quick to add that motivating people to get vaccinated relies on providing the facts and ensuring that they know that health workers believe in the vaccines that they administer.
“We find that people immunize their children to ensure that they can go to school but with the COVID-19 vaccines, they want to know that we have taken the vaccine and believe in its value. Much of our work in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine is to allay the fears or uncertainties of community members for them to get vaccinated,” shared the immunization champion.
Several residents of Kitson Town commended the work of the health centre and its Immunization programme. Terecia Grange, mother of two, brought her grandson to the Kitson Town Health Centre to get his shots. “All my children are fully immunized, and I am doing the same for my grandson. He is only nine months old, but I have brought him for all his vaccines at the health centre. The process is seamless,” shared Miss Grange.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mr. Oswald Byfield who visited the facility to get his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. “I chose to get the COVID-19 vaccine because it is safe, and I encourage others to do it too!”.
For more than 40 years, the Pan-American Health Organization’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines, has provided access to safe and quality vaccines at affordable prices for Member States and Territories throughout the region. It is part of the larger support towards countries efforts, to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases through control and elimination strategies. The PAHO also coordinates and supports the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
The Pan America Health Organization supplies routine vaccines to the Member States under the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility. The work of the PAHO/WHO Country Office in Jamaica is guided by Immunization Agenda 2030 to address challenges related to immunization over the next decade.
Speaking on this support, Mr. Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO Representative to Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands said, “The work of the PAHO/WHO Country Office in Jamaica is guided by Immunization Agenda 2030 to address challenges related to immunization over the next decade."
He continued,” We support the review of immunization coverage and surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases and provide technical advice to address gaps and sustain your hard-won public health gains. We also procure routine vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines to meet the growing demands of Jamaicans.”
For more information on Jamaica’s Ministry of Wellness’ COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Programme, visit: COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Programme – The Ministry of Health and Wellness (moh.gov.jm)