BPO, construction workers added to phase two of vaccination listWednesday, March 17, 2021
BY JASON CROSS
THE Ministry of Health and Wellness, after discussions with the private sector, has agreed to include workers in business process outsourcing (BPO) and the construction industry on the priority list of people to be inoculated in phase two of the COVID-19 national vaccination programme.
Jamaica is currently still in the first phase of its vaccination roll-out, in which it is targeting front line health workers, members of the security forces and people over 60 years old.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday that the plan is to give priority to some people within the business community, as part of Government's push to restore normality to the economy.
Tufton was speaking at the launch of a digital programme between the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) where 400 digital tablets costing more than $11 million were donated to Government towards the management of the vaccination drive. The platform should be fully rolled out by early April, according to Tufton, who said it is being fine-tuned to avoid any “kinks” in the future as the platform will require collection of critical vaccination data from individual and demographic groupings.
“The vaccine plan for [phase two] had tourism, banking and a number of sectors that would be given priority as part of restoring economic normality, which is essential in order for us to get back on track. I have been in conversation with Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Keith Duncan and we have added to that group the BPO sector. This is important for job creation and foreign exchange earnings as well as the construction sector, retail and distribution,” Tufton said. The Government, he added, is willing to use its flexibility to find solutions to overcome the economic challenges associated with the pandemic.
The minister also said that discussions were also taking place to identify suitable facilities that will be manned and operated by the private sector, from which the vaccines would be administered.
“We are now discussing where we can find a space for later on when we have completed [vaccinating] the vulnerable groups. We will identify the suitable facilities managed by the private sector, with a distribution across the country that will allow them, with oversight from the ministry to maintain all the protocols and standards essential and the equity. They will use those facilities to administer and I think realising great promise from the minister's announcement regarding inoculation of the BPO and construction industries as well as retailers,” president of the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association Richard Pandohie said. He was confident that the economy will be able to rebound in no time.
“The sooner we can get vaccinated where we can get the assurance that people no longer face the risk of getting sick or dying, it will give a lot to certainly open up the door for the economy to reopen. I certainly believe that the economy is going to open up very quickly. The countries that are vaccinated, you can see them start spending already and booking travel. There are record levels of travel booking in the United States of America and United Kingdom.
“The people have been locked up for a year and what Jamaica needs to do is to make sure that our people are ready to receive and be properly vaccinated. If we don't get our house in order, we could end up being red circle when everybody is ready to move out. The BPO is doing very well by the way, so it is important to keep the process going.”
Howard Mitchell, former president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, said it was a welcomed move to add the BPO and construction sectors to the priority list for the second roll-out phase. Mitchell said that farmers would be eventually added to the priority list.
“I would ask us not to neglect farmers and the agricultural sector. Both the construction and BPO sectors are extremely valuable in terms of bringing back life to the economy because those sectors create employment for a large part of our population and the kind of employment that is created is employment that is readily accessible for the young people who are the people who do the work. I would welcome that and given that the economy is so heavily dependent on tourism, it is critical that our tourist workers also get protected from the virus as quickly as possible. That would be a win-win because it would increase the pace of inoculation and get us to our (over two million) target as quickly as possible,” he said.