Gov't moving to correct COVID-19 shortfalls for disabled
JOHNSON SMITH... a protocolto treat with persons withdisabilities has now been written

Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith has admitted that the Administration did not give priority treatment to people with disabilities in the early stages of the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations.

But, according to Johnson Smith, a protocol to treat with disabled Jamaicans has since been written and covers the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, social workers, community health aides, municipal councillors and community-based workers.

Johnson Smith, the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, was responding, during last Friday's sitting of the Senate, to questions tabled by Opposition Senator Floyd Morris pertaining to the treatment of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 vaccination process.

She said that agencies which treat with individuals with disabilities were engaged and asked to provide a list of those people and where to locate them.

Johnson Smith told the Upper House that the Jamaica Society for the Blind worked with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to transport people with disabilities to vaccination sites, and provision was also made for their caregivers to be vaccinated at the same time.

In addition, these people were accepted at all the vaccination sites and, in terms of being prioritised, specific times have been allotted to inoculate them, she said.

The senator confirmed that no data was captured in terms of the number of people with disabilities who were vaccinated, and admitted that there was no data available either pertaining to the gender or rural/urban population of those who were vaccinated.

Asked by Senator Morris what current strategies are being used to reach out with vaccines to people with disabilities who are confined to their homes due to their condition, Johnson Smith said there is a registration tool on the Ministry of Health and Wellness's website for all “shut-ins”, and once they register with the website they will be visited and inoculated.

She also reminded that COVID Conversation sessions have been launched, are shared on social media and are announced through press releases. People can also call 1-888-One Love to register.

Johnson Smith pointed out that the health ministry has been sending out information by e-mail and media advertisements, and the regional health authorities are well aware and have also been asked to reach out to the private doctors in their respective parishes.

Morris said he was not aware that any protocol pertaining to the development of people with disabilities had been developed, as he has written to the health ministry on several occasions and was not apprised of a protocol.

He said it was also unfortunate that there was a lack of data about the number of individuals with disabilities who were vaccinated.

“It just indicates that the group of persons who are very vulnerable in our society wasn't a priority [or] they would have been featured in the data-capturing mechanism, and I think that this is a matter that needs to be corrected. Since we have such low levels of vaccination take-up, we should correct that situation,” Morris said.

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter

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