Too many errors in COVID-19 vax managementFriday, October 01, 2021
This newspaper feels for the Jamaican Government, and indeed all governments as they struggle to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The stark truth is that very little in the experience of even the oldest among us could have provided preparation for many of the challenges we now face.
It's a near-unprecedented environment in which mistakes are inevitable.
Nonetheless, in Jamaica's case, we believe — based on available information — that some errors could have been easily avoided.
Let's take, for example, the current situation surrounding the Pfizer vaccine which has run out in Jamaica with more than 80,000 people awaiting second doses.
Problematically, there seems to be uncertainty as to when those second doses will arrive.
As we understand it, Jamaica received just over 208,000 doses of the Pfizer brand from the US on August 19. That product was approved for children and originally intended on arrival here for those 12 years and over.
For whatever reason, the decision was then made to include adults as recipients of the Pfizer brand in Jamaica. It soon became the brand of choice and the supply was quickly exhausted.
We have to agree with Dr Morais Guy, Opposition spokesman on health, that the decision to administer the Pfizer vaccine without allocating for second dosage was “mind-boggling”.
Perhaps the authorities did that because of confidence that supplies of the second dose would have arrived in a timely manner. But it seems to this newspaper that there could have been no basis for that confidence, given the vaccine shortages and hoarding of doses by rich countries, even to this day.
It surely would have made more sense to use half of the Pfizer supply for first doses with the other half kept safe for second doses.
Now, as it stands, the hope and prayer is that fresh supplies will arrive very, very soon.
We are also disturbed that thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived from Britain in late July, seemed set to be discarded after reaching expiry last night.
We are aware that there were serious difficulties. For one thing, four months of the six-month lifespan for the vaccine had gone by the time the supply reached Jamaica. That's not ideal. However, beggars can't be choosers.
Especially because of the high level of vaccine hesitancy, the situation cried out for immediate and comprehensive organisation with the help of the Social Development Commission, political reps, community leaders, and employers, to get those supplies to people in their communities and workplaces.
Clearly, the alarming third wave of virus infections complicated matters with public health personnel who are needed to administer the vaccine stretched to near breaking point.
But surely, with a little more foresight, the arrangement reached a few days ago for Government to partner with private entities to administer COVID-19 vaccines across the country could have been made much earlier. That, we think, could have eased the pressure on public health staff and perhaps reduced congestion at vaccination points.
All that said, what's done is done. We must all learn from our mistakes and, for sure, the authorities need to be quicker on their feet than has been the case these past several months.