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Tufton says $422m being reported for COVID vaccination marketing and PR programme incorrect

Monday, February 22, 2021

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HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is dismissing as incorrect news reports that $422 million has been allocated by the Government for a COVID-19 vaccination marketing and public education programme.

“There is no $422 million being spent on marketing and public relations. There is a general category in the vaccine plan that deals with demand generation and communication, which was interpreted as marketing and public relations. A breakout of the figures clearly demonstrates that this should not be a traditional interpretation of marketing and PR,” Dr Tufton told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. “It's more a risk mitigation, including areas such as training.”

Tufton was responding to concerns raised locally and in the diaspora about the cost of the public education programme set to be implemented as the Government prepares to begin its immunisation programme against the novel coronavirus, that, since last March, has affected more than 21,000 people across the island, resulting in 396 deaths. Just over 12,900 people have, so far, recovered from the virus, but cases of new infections have been increasing as Jamaicans continue to flout safety protocols.

He provided the Observer with a breakdown of the spend, which shows $22 million being paid to a firm — One Integrated Group — to develop and implement the communication plan; $64.3 million for advertising in print, electronic and social media; $27.8 million for 12 public education sessions in each regional health authority, that will include groups, medical professionals, teachers, first responders, et cetera; and $36.2 million for brochures, flyers and other material.

That amounts to just over $150 million, he pointed out.

The vaccination budget, which totals $5 billion, also includes $13.9 million for vaccine freezers; $19.3 million to provide 10 vaccination training for staff in each region; $232 million to hire 20 temporary staff in each region for 12 months; and $46.2 million for overtime and other benefits, to name a few.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the country that revisions were being made to the vaccine public education budget.

“We could reallocate those resources to other areas in health. In fact, to even acquire more vaccines,” Holness said at a ground-breaking ceremony for Andrews Mews Health and Recreational Centre in his St Andrew West Central constituency.

Yesterday, Dr Tufton said: “In keeping with the prime minister's instructions, I have asked for a review to see if further adjustments can be made to achieve the objectives that have been set.”

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