Jamaica’s COVID-19 vaccination program gets a shot in the arm (and a note on testing)

Firstly, the good news: the U.S. Government has provided more support for the COVID-19 vaccine efforts in Jamaica…

The United States government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Caribbean Regional Office and its COVID-19 International Vaccine Implementation and Evaluation Program is supporting Jamaica’s Rapid COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program with $190K USD, approximately J$29M, to aid in staff training and the procurement of supplies including mobile beds, oxygen, emergency trollies, and tents. The funding provided will also aid in the retention of staff to support vaccine rollout.

This donation builds on a total J$1.8 billion (US$12M), the United States has provided toward Jamaica’s national COVID-19 response since the onset of the pandemic.

The CDC Caribbean Regional Office also facilitated a partnership with Peace Corps and Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness through which Peace Crops will provide additional human resource support to the vaccination rapid response efforts. On Thursday, December 2nd, a mobile COVID-19 vaccination roll-out at the University of Technology Jamaica, which was supported under this project, was attended by both U.S. CDC and Peace Corps representatives.

Left to Right: Tomaisha Hendricks – CDC CRO Cooperative Agreement Program Manager (US Embassy Jamaica); Dr. Rosemary Wiesmann-Moore – Medical Officer (Peace Corps); Dr Tanesha Hickman – CDC CRO Global Health Security Epidemiologist (US Embassy Jamaica); Dr Lambert Innis – National Rapid Vaccination Response Coordinator, COVID-19 Vaccination Implementation Program (Ministry of Health & Wellness); Dr. Deborah Newnham – Medical Officer (Peace Corps) and Mesha Calvert – Safety and Security Manager (Peace Corps)

A troubling note, though: Dr. Carolyn Gomes, who serves on advisory boards for the World Health Organization, asked on Twitter the other day regarding testing (I understand only those with symptoms are being tested):

Time to bring Ja’s testing up to WHO Minimum standard one Test per 1000 population per day…The Government in conjunction with private doctors needs to make testing available in every clinic, every doctor’s office, every school so people can get tested everywhere, as often as needed to keep us safe. 30-40 % COVID infections have NO symptoms.

CEO of Sandals Adam Stewart urged:

Time to get serious about widespread decentralized affordable testing. According to the Global Fund, Foundation for Innovative new Diagnostics “high rates of testing & sequencing allow us to track community spread & identify new variants before things get out of control.”

I have a feeling that we absolutely don’t know the real spread of the virus in communities, unless we do more testing. But tests are prohibitively expensive, for one thing.

I have not given many detailed updates on COVID-19, partly because we have not had a Ministry of Health and Wellness media briefing in weeks. Comments in Parliament (which may or may not get reported) are no substitute. Nor are the Prime Minister’s press briefings, where Mr. Holness talks for 95 percent of the time and there is no time left for questions. We need ample time for all the questions that media may have to ask – especially with Omicron on the horizon. In that respect, the Ministry’s briefings were invaluable.

One lives in hope.

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