USAID boosts Jamaica's push to get COVID-19 vaccines to private health facilities
A pharmacist, Sima Manifar, prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19vaccine in the United States.

Eight private entities in the health sector last week signed grants totalling US$600,000 with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue the roll-out of the health ministry's outsourcing of COVID-19 vaccines. The ministry is trying to administer 75,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through private entities.

So far, approximately 17,000 doses have been given outside of the public health system, state minister for health Juliet Cuthbert Flynn noted during a signing ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.Last September, the ministry signed contracts with the first batch of private health facilities, doctor's offices and pharmacies to outsource the administration of vaccines.

Now, persons also have the option of getting vaccinated at Windsor Wellness Centre, Fontana Pharmacy, Fairco Medical and Dermatology Centre, Erudite Medical Centre, Vein Centres of Jamaica, HealthPlus Pharmacy, Bethel Baptist Church, and Online Medical.

Up to last Friday, just over 1.3-million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered across Jamaica, according to the health ministry.

Of that number, 678,759 were first doses, 562,761 were second doses, and 86,809 were single doses, while 27,586 were booster doses.

This puts Jamaica at just over 649,570 individuals fully vaccinated up to last Friday, out of the Government's original target of approximately two million.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its timeline to mid-2022 for countries to reach 70 per cent vaccination coverage. Jamaica is one of only 10 countries in the Caribbean that have not yet reached the WHO target of 40 per cent of the elegible population vaccinated by this point.

Last week, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa F Etienne pointed out that in Jamaica, casual workers and young men are among those who remain vulnerable and need targeted intervention. She said these groups have the lowest vaccination rates in the island.

“Some people have not gotten vaccinated because they no longer see COVID as a risk to themselves. Yet the spread and death toll of the Omicron [variant] have shown that underestimating this virus only fuels the pandemic and leads to more suffering,” she said.

Dr Etienne noted that although new cases across the Caribbean dropped by 44 per cent, more than half of the 13 countries and territories in the region that reported deaths were in the Caribbean.

Noting the trend in COVID-19 cases requiring critical care, she said ICU cases in Jamaica rose by 23 per cent last week, compared to the previous week:

“These trends show that many places are still in the midst of the Omicron surge, so we must stay vigilant and uphold the measures that have been proven to save lives”.

Dr Etienne emphasised that with more than over 21 million people in the region fully vaccinated, there is real-world data indicating that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective against the disease.

— Alphea Sumner

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