A matter of treating people with dignity and respectWednesday, September 01, 2021
The Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton spares no effort to get the message out that 'every vaccination counts'. He ends most of his tweets relating to vaccines with the three words which, as all our readers know, have this newspaper's support.
We have no doubt that Minister Tufton and the officials in the health and wellness ministry are committed to getting as many Jamaicans as possible vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the minister and his team should not be surprised if, after Monday's experience at some vaccination sites, doubt about that resolve is now creeping into the minds of a number of Jamaicans.
Having people waiting in line for eight hours, as happened on Monday in Manchester, will merely serve to discourage them from turning up for the vaccine. Additionally, the officials running the vaccination centres should not place themselves in a position to be accused of preferential treatment in administering the vaccine. But that was the impression formed by some Jamaicans on Monday in St Elizabeth.
We are indeed surprised that the Ministry of Health and Wellness allowed a repeat of the chaotic scenes which played out at the National Arena in April and June this year.
Readers will recall that in June hundreds of Jamaicans, mostly senior citizens, turned up at the Arena to get their second COVID-19 shot, as scheduled by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. An hour after the announced start they were turned away.
At the time, we had commented in this space that the débâcle in April should at least have warned the health authorities about what to expect and how to manage large crowds.
Everyone in authority should have seen the heightened interest among Jamaicans over the past few weeks to take the vaccine. It's not as if there was an overnight surge.
We accept that the uptick in vaccine acceptance is stretching human resources already made thin and weary by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases islandwide. And while a rush on vaccination centres will result in delays, there must be some way to make the wait comfortable. In fact, that was one of the issues that Dr Tufton promised would be addressed just last week after he noted that more than 21,000 Jamaicans had been vaccinated on August 24 as his ministry continued its four-day special vaccination blitz across the island for children between the ages of 12 and 18 years.
Pointing out that the record number of people who turned out on that day resulted in many having to wait longer than anticipated, Dr Tufton said that the ministry would review the process to ensure that the waiting experience is improved.
That review, it appears, is still being done, as there is no evidence from Monday's experience to suggest otherwise.
We can't treat people like this.
We know the health authorities can do much better. We saw that in the early stages of the vaccination programme. It is not asking too much to plan for larger crowds and implement strategies to manage in a manner that provides service with dignity and respect.
Seventeen months into the pandemic we should not be making these kinds of mistakes. In raw Jamaican parlance, “It nuh look good,” and to the people who are affected, “It nuh feel good.”
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