Fairness and equity in access to the COVID-19 vaccine in Jamaica

We are learning a great deal about the COVID-19 vaccine. As I detailed in a Global Voices post this week, there was quite a bit of excitement when Jamaica’s very first batch of vaccine arrived on Monday (March 8). Prime Minister Andrew Holness stressed at a press briefing that evening that vaccinations would take place in a fair and equitable manner. I wondered what he was getting at, for a moment. Now the euphoria of the first vaccinations of healthcare workers has died down a little. Unfortunately, there is some unease and social media “chat” about people allegedly “cutting the line” to get vaccines that are left over from the vials, which must be used or thrown out once opened. How this happened (and why, and who, and how many) I do not know. But I hope it stops, right now.

Meanwhile, public education work goes on in communities (and I would like to see more of it…) This is from a “Community Rove” in St. James, with the Western Regional Health Authority and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Citizens completed surveys, got COVID-19 tests, sanitisers and masks. This is what we call a “town crier.” (Photo: Ministry of Health and Wellness)

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has confirmed that it is sticking with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, in the face of recent reports that some European countries have suspended its use after a patient suffered from blood clots following vaccination. The Ministry notes in a March 12 press release that the World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating, but…

In a statement issued yesterday, the WHO advised that there was no reason to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine though some countries in Europe and elsewhere have moved to halt its use over concerns about blood clots.

The MOHW reminds the public that vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce deaths from other causes. Deaths from other causes will continue to occur, including after vaccinations, but not causally related.

…According to the WHO, as at March 9, more than 268 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since the start of the pandemic, with no cases of death having been found to have been caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

Jamaica’s own vaccination programme began on March 10, with more than 3,000 persons now vaccinated. Only 12 persons have so far reported side effects – all of them mild and including rash, swelling, dizziness, and nausea.

Here is the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ press release also of today’s date, regarding the need for a fair and equitable vaccination process. Oh, and there is this – announced by Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke in the Budget Speech this week (which was generally applauded – he is an excellent communicator and has plenty of “nerd appeal” at the same time!) Details to be announced shortly. It’s been a busy week…

Healthcare Workers, JDF, JCF main focus for the First Weeks of Vaccination Programme

KINGSTON, Jamaica. Friday, March 12 2021: The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to reiterate its commitment to give healthcare workers and other members of the phase one group of the COVID-19 Implementation Plan first access to the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Over the next two weeks, the primary focus is to have healthcare workers and members of the Jamaica Defense and Constabulary Forces vaccinated. Therefore, over the aforementioned timeframe, the vast majority of appointments will be reserved for this crucial segment of the population which is on the frontline of the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry wishes to further advise that there are circumstances where the opening of a vial will leave a surplus of vaccines which must be used. This may present the opportunity over the next two weeks to have members of the elderly cohort of the population vaccinated, in particular those stationed at homes which care for the elderly.

Consequently, in order to prevent wastage of the surplus of vaccines, which is a possibility if there is an open vial, a list of persons aged 60 years and older is being generated at these facilities which care for the elderly. When a surplus exists due to an opened vial, senior citizens on this list may then be contacted to come in and take this vaccine within an hour – this will be done based on vaccine availability in the different locations.

It is important to note that a vial contains 10 doses of the vaccine. Once the vial is opened, all vaccines must be used within six hours. Hence in an effort to minimize wastage, if a vial is opened and not all vaccines are used up by healthcare workers, the elderly will be inoculated with the remaining vaccines.

The Ministry’s vaccination policy is guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) empirical science-oriented findings which identify healthcare workers and the elderly among the most vulnerable groups.

The Ministry is encouraged by the number of healthcare workers who have taken the vaccines so far and continues to do all within its power to ensure the vaccination process proceeds smoothly, and as soon as possible the entire population has the opportunity to be inoculated.

A group of young doctors hold up their vaccination cards after receiving their “jooks.” (Photo: Twitter)

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