Jamaica among beneficiaries of multimillion-dollar vaccine initiative
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton (right) shakes hands with Pan American Health Organisation Director of Health Emergencies Dr Ciro Ugarte at the launch of Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity at the International Seabed Authority in Kingston on Friday. United Nations Children's Fund Acting Country representative, Vicente Teran looks on. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

JAMAICA is among 12 countries set to benefit from a multimillion-dollar vaccine initiative which is expected to strengthen COVID-19 vaccination delivery and lessen hesitancy in taking the jab.

Under the project, which is called Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE), CAD$45 million was donated to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and CAD$70 million donated to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Canada's Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan said the project is his country's commitment to equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines so as to strengthen health systems.

"COVID has dominated much of our lives in the last three years [but] the pandemic has slipped a bit from the headlines over the last few months. It's good to see that our lives are getting back to normal but we need to remember that COVID is still here," said Sajjan, who was speaking at the event launch held at the International Seabed Authority in Kingston on Friday.

Canada's Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan says Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity project is the country's commitment to equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine in strengthening health systems.

"Although we wish that we could turn a page on COVID altogether, we know that is not a simple thing to do. There is still work to do to control the spread of this virus, moving to recovery, and to build stronger health systems," he added.

Of the funds donated to UNICEF, CAD$5.5 million will assist with boosting Jamaica's vaccine efforts such as reinforcing childhood vaccination, establishing two new oxygen plants in two hospitals, providing technical assistance to optimise the oxygen supply chain in the country, upgrading cold chain equipment, and training public health staff in cold chain management and monitoring.

And CAD$4.7 million of the funds donated to PAHO will be allocated to initiatives such as increasing access to COVID-19 vaccination by strengthening health systems, and developing and supporting the implementation of information systems and digital platforms for COVID-19 vaccine surveillance. The funds will also assist with generating demand for COVID-19 vaccines through outreach, risk communication and community engagement.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said the funds under CanGIVE are timely.

"It provides a well-needed boost to our initiatives, new energy to increase awareness, and [will] hopefully to let Jamaicans and those in the regions recognise the importance of these efforts," he said.

"What is appealing about this initiative is that at a time when we recognise that our overall vaccination programmes are losing momentum, the five components of the initiative speak to the strengthening of health systems, not just for COVID but of vaccinations generally," he added

Tufton said in coming weeks the health ministry will launch an initiative that will seek to re-emphasise and focus the attention of Jamaicans around the value of immunisation, and hopefully provide a greater incentive and motivation for all concerned parents and others to participate in the programme.

The other countries to benefit from CanGIVE are Bangladesh, Ghana, Haiti, Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Senegal, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Colombia.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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