Let us prepare!


Let us prepare!

Strategical road map needed for J'can Government's handling of COVID-19 vaccination process


Thursday, January 07, 2021

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As the world looks forward to putting an end to the novel coronavirus pandemic by vaccinating about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the population, and working towards herd immunity in 2021, the Jamaican Government will be faced with persuading people to embrace the different vaccines — whether Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, or which vaccine gets here first — while creating a logistical distribution plan.

In April 2020 I was well of the opinion that the Jamaican Government had been handling the COVID-19 crisis superbly, and I continue to embrace this belief. The COVID-19 operational structure in Jamaica, led by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, is something for which I strongly believe that our country should be lauded.

Fast-forward to 2021 and the Government of Jamaica will be held to account for the operational process for vaccination that it should create and oversee, and will be, once again, in the spotlight for its management and oversight of these operations.

Handling the operational process requires all hands on deck, and will need to foster a cross-dimensional process. So, the process that the Jamaican Government should have needs to encompass the following:

1) stakeholders' partnership committee (both internal and external)

2) financial support and funding

3) vaccination logistical design and tracking system

The Government of Jamaica will need support from all internal stakeholders to have a seamless process. Stakeholders partnership is critical, and the coordination plan from a stakeholders' direction is and will always be the main driver for success. The need for creating a stakeholders' partnership process is to ensure that internal and external stakeholders are a part of the vaccination process and that there is not only a Government-led plan. When looking at the internal stakeholders, a committee should be formed. This committee should comprise members of the Government, members of the Opposition, members from the Ministry of Health, members of the private sector organisations and civil society, members of cultural and entertainment societies, as well as academia. The aim will be to craft a structural plan for the Jamaican people to embrace the vaccination roll-out and create a logistical distribution plan.

From the vaccination buying standpoint, the stakeholders' committee should look at a promotional process to inform everyone about the prosand cons of getting vaccinated. Also, creating vaccination categories, zoning distribution hubs, pre-registration, and a database ahead of the vaccine's availability.

Next, the Jamaican Government needs to recommend a regional (Caribbean-wide) vaccination committee. The regional vaccination committee is critical to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines within the Caribbean.

Many countries within the Caribbean, like Jamaica, are not able to strategically plan and financially support the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved. Hence, having a regional plan with coordination via the World Health Organization (WHO) and the G-12 member states will be needed at this point for all countries within the Caribbean to coordinate and support each other's vaccination plans.

Many Caribbean countries during the height of the COVID-19 battle were struggling to get needed supplies and ventilators to their countries because of the demand of the United States and other First-World countries. Therefore, the crafting of an effective vaccination roll-out plan to inoculate almost 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the Jamaican people will require financial funding and investment from the Jamaican Government.

As was mentioned before by the prime minister of Jamaica, once a vaccine is available it will be free for everyone in the country. This is a notable gesture, even from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, whom I will boldly state is a forward thinker. He and his team must be way ahead with plans of how to acquire the vaccinations, covering the costs to let them be free, or have already been searching for financial support to ensure that it is of no cost to the people of Jamaica.

The vaccination plan will be costly, which is even more the reason for a detailed plan based on how the Government will support the process for all the requirements for the vaccine, including transportation, storage, promotion/marketing, and personnel for its administration.

Finally, the vaccination logistical design and tracking process should be done similarly to the JamCOVID system. This system could be called JAM-VAC. The system would be used for a pre-registration process based on the different categories of vaccination prioritisation that will be identified by the stakeholders' committee. Once this is done, a vaccination schedule plan can be created. Following this we could establish the implement the zoned roll-out of the logistical hubs plan. The zoning hubs system should foster hub vaccination centres in each parish based on the demand. An exemption should be given to nursing homes and other care facilities, which will have their vaccination hubs. Therefore, for this to work, the Jamaican Government should ensure that this system is undergirded by a tracking inventory in place to look at the demand for the vaccination and the availability.

As we all know, there are currently three approved vaccines on the market — Pfizer, Moderna, or Oxford/AstraZeneca. However, from a logistical and distribution standpoint, the Government may need to invest in the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines for the people of Jamaica because storage and transportation of these vaccines are easier in comparison to Pfizer. Still, I hear that none of these vaccines will make it to our island, Jamaica.

Marvin M Foster, MHM, is a senior health care professional and doctoral student. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or marvinfoster85@yahoo.com.

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