There is plenty of excitement over the COVID-19 vaccine. In Parliament today, Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton said 16 percent of the population will be vaccinated next year: One per cent would receive the vaccine by April 2021, another three per cent by mid-2021 and the remaining 13 per cent by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, he has set up a National COVID-19 Vaccine Commission. The only representative of civil society seems to be the Jamaica Council of Churches, and I am not quite understanding why the Jamaica Defence Force is on the Commission (to guard the vaccines?) Below is the Ministry’s press release. For more documents and discussion on COVID-19 vaccines, take a look at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) website here.
KINGSTON, Jamaica. Tuesday, December 8, 2020: The Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton has named a National COVID-19 Vaccine Commission, as Jamaica shores up its prevention and containment measures for the pandemic that has rocked the world for months now.
The members of the Commission, the Minister told Parliament earlier today (Tuesday, December 8), include representatives from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the National Health Fund, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Nurses Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Defence Force.
The responsibilities of the Commission, Minister Tufton revealed, include to:
- provide guidance and oversight in the development of a National COVID-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan for the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines;
- provide oversight in the designing of strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of a COVID-19 vaccine(s) in Jamaica;
- provide guidance in ensuring that the plan and related financing is well aligned to other national COVID-19 recovery and response and support plans, and that implementation is fully integrated and coordinated;
- guide the establishment of an operations process for coordination, information and communication;
- provide guidance in the design and implementation of a public education campaign; and
- support the implementation of health services readiness and capacity assessments to identify bottlenecks and guide delivery of vaccines and other essential supplies.
“Among other things, Madam Speaker, the Commission is also, to the extent possible, facilitate cooperation at policy, technical and local levels between government, non-governmental, private sector agencies or organization, and civil society in the process of the plan’s development and implementation,” the Minister added.
According to the Minister, vaccination is an essential component of the National COVID-19 Response.
“With more than 66 million people globally having become infected by the virus and more than 1.5 million having lost their lives, vaccination as a response to containing the disease cannot be overlooked,” he said.
“Here in Jamaica, Madam Speaker, with more than 11,000 infections and 265 deaths, vaccination must form a part of our COVID-19 response efforts,” the Minister added.
Still, he said that he is well aware that the issue of a COVID-19 vaccine “has been a source of anxiety for some as we continue to navigate the new normal imposed by the pandemic.”
As such, Minister Tufton said the Ministry of Health & Wellness and the Government of Jamaica would seek to ensure that COVID-19 vaccination is done safely. To that end, he said that a National Vaccination and Deployment Plan is being developed for consideration by the Commission. The elements of that plan include the management structure; a review of the legal framework; demand generation and communication; training; vaccine cold chain and logistics; safety surveillance; and information systems.
“Once finalised, the plan will be shared with the members of this Honourable House and the people of Jamaica in whose best interest we are operating as we seek to secure for them the best possible health outcomes from COVID-19,” the Minister told Parliament.