Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Push for more private-sector COVID vax sites

Published:Saturday | September 25, 2021 | 12:12 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Pharmacists participated in Government-organised training in the first quarter of the year, but currently do not fit into any category required by the Government for their participation in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Pharmacists participated in Government-organised training in the first quarter of the year, but currently do not fit into any category required by the Government for their participation in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

In an apparent response to cries from individuals in remote locations across the island to secure vaccination against the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Ministry of Health and Wellness is seeking the assistance of private pharmacy owners and other small, medium and large business operators to offer their business spaces as vaccination sites.

However, it is unclear if the pharmacists who meet the requirement will be used to administer the jab, despite their training (some of which was conducted by the health ministry), qualification and willingness.

The health ministry, by way of correspondence, has asked for proposals from pharmacy owners and private physicians for the use of their offices, as well as requesting of private health facilities, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations and other entities with small, medium or large scale sites the cost to use their facilities as vaccination sites. Interested participants must provide a number of services, including the staff to help administer the shots and personal protective equipment (PPE) for said staff.

REQUESTING A QUOTATION

The ministry, in a letter dated September 7 and another almost a week later on September 15, said it was requesting “quotation for COVID-19 vaccine administration services at mobile or fixed sites that are small, medium or large”.

It said only quotations from the lowest bidders and eligible suppliers would be considered, as defined in the appropriate tender documents. The consideration was not a guarantee of selection, however. Small operations should be able to administer between one and 100; medium, 101 and 500, and large, 501–1,000 vaccinations.

Head of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, Dr Winsome Christie, said the requirements were onerous for small and even medium-size operators.

“The sites are what will be used if selected. The persons to be paid are outlined by the ministry and among them are medical doctors, registered and public health nurses and midwives. No pharmacists will be used to administer the vaccine. I believe there are six clearly defined personnel identified, and it’s basically the same model for the Antigen test,” Christie said Friday, noting that pharmacists will not be used to gather data.

“The requirements there are much more stringent than in the public setting, based on what is required. I am sure private sector individuals want to participate, and no one is here asking for any lowering of standards. But it appears that the private sector is required to provide much more than is now provided in the public sphere,” she explained.

She was not able to say whether any pharmacists had submitted tenders.

Currently, pharmacists in Jamaica are barred from administering vaccines as in several other countries, because of legislation. Pharmacists participated in Government-organised training in the first quarter of the year, but currently do not fit into any category required by the Government for their participation in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com