Do it right for the industrious woman with the stall


Do it right for the industrious woman with the stall

Imani Duncan-Price

Sunday, February 21, 2021

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THROUGHOUT this COVID-19 crisis I keep my mind on the woman who had a stall outside a primary school, selling goodies for children up until March 10, 2020. She is who motivates my search for possible solutions for Jamaica.

That stall enabled her to send her children to school, with one in university. Yes, many Jamaicans are incredible money managers. That woman has not reopened her stall by the school for almost a year. She's tried other ventures but it's hard, and now she has no capital left. For me, COVID-19 is over when she is back at school with her thriving stall and is once again moving towards the goal of her own wholesale shop. It may not sound like much to some, but it's the backbone of our country's commerce and the way to build local prosperity.

This propelled my first article in this series in which I argued for vaccination of 70 per cent of the population for herd immunity to get the country going again. Jamaica can afford to buy vaccines for the 70 per cent but we need to be dogged in pursuit and collaborate with our Caribbean neighbours to negotiate as a block to get the volume needed.

Until we achieve 70 per cent (which doesn't look likely until 2023 at this rate) we should focus on affordable pricing for reliable COVID-19 tests, as mentioned in my second article. The Government needs to change the policy that has led to providers charging US$300 for one test. Without widely available testing we cannot get a handle on the spread of COVID-19. Jamaica's recent 31 per cent positivity rate will hopefully jerk us into action.

Are We Ready?

With the first vaccines for 125,000 Jamaicans set to arrive within seven days, I offer some insights gained from a colleague who is a leader at CIC Health in the USA. They transformed Gillette Stadium in Boston into a mass vaccination site in 30 days and now manage the vaccination of 3,600 people per day. While Jamaica has one of the best vaccination programmes in the world, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations seems to be a different level of complexity. And setting up a COVID-19 vaccination site for 100 people entails the same effort and complexity as setting up a site for 5,000 people.

1. Population Priority Database & Registration

The Government stated that Phase I will cater to vaccination of the vulnerable and priority groups. Teachers are not in the priority group and won't be vaccinated until earliest April 2022. I recommend including teachers in Phase I, given the reopening and exposure at schools.

2. Appointment Management System

A simple and secure appointment system is needed to track and manage the flow of people at the vaccination points. How else will people get reminders for their second shot in a specified time? How will Government know who already got?

3. Centralised Vaccine Storage and Security

World-class supply management for vaccination storage along with needles, testing kits and all supporting elements are needed. This is supported by appropriate technology that tracks receiving, storage and sufficient cold transportation.

4. Vaccination Centres

Infrastructure to support the 'vaccination day storage', based on the numbers expected, is critical. Health assessment at entry followed by on-site registration based on appointments, verification of identification plus setting of next appointment need to be managed efficiently.

Sufficient space for waiting areas before and after vaccination is done, as well as on-spot testing are important in addition to the people trained to execute the vaccination. Site managers in each vaccination centre are essential to effective capacity management, people flow and waste disposal.

I encourage the National Vaccine Commission to share the critical elements of the execution plan as it's a massive undertaking and we all want it to succeed. Inadequate infrastructure and people insufficiently trained will result in the scarce vaccines wasted, as the vials go bad if mismanaged under the wrong conditions. Afterall, it's our money and our lives.

— Imani Duncan-Price is a former senator, a World Economic Forum young global leader, and Eisenhower Fellow. Email feedback to

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