Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Private sector, AFJ set 15,000 COVID vax target over three months

Published:Saturday | March 12, 2022 | 12:05 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

WITH AN underwhelming response to vaccine take up, particularly among high-risk groups in the country, after a year of the first batch arriving in the country, the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI) and American Friends of Jamaica have now strengthened their partnership to amp up sensitisation and vaccination exercises across the island.

By end of May, the team which includes the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI), FLOW, Ministry of Health, NGOs and the Medical Association of Jamaica, among others, is expecting to educate 20,000 citizens and of that number, inoculate 15,000 of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

Project lead for the community vaccination programme, Saffrey Brown, said a great percentage of the population remains at risk and have to be prioritised during the programme.

A breakdown of her statistics showed that just over 676,000 Jamaicans are fully vaccinated. However, of that number, just over 140,000 members of the senior citizens’ category have been inoculated.

“Fifty per cent of our over 60s (in population) have not been vaccinated and that is of concern to us. We have had over 128, 000 COVID cases and just under 3,000 deaths. We now have 23 per cent of our population vaccinated, which is very far from the 65 per cent we wanted last year when we just started,” Brown said.

Speaking during the virtual session for the announcement ofthe three-month programme on Wednesday, Brown said based on the current rate of vaccination, it may take more than a year for another 10 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated.

Though the country remains far from herd immunity status, the vaccination programme, she said, will ensure that the elderly, co-morbid and those residing in low-resourced and rural communities are mobilised to vaccination centres, despite socio-economic factors that would have generally hampered them.

In an effort to support the national vaccination plan, chair of the oversight committee of the PSVI, Christopher Zacca, said they have so far donated 400 digital tablets, managed the electronic record-keeping system for the national vaccination drive and facilitated more than 40,000 vaccinations for private-sector workers and their dependents across the island.

“In total, the private sector has contributed about $100 million to this national plan. Despite the progress, including the more than one million vaccine doses that have been administered, we are not quite out of the woods ... This drive is designed to discover and address hesitancy issues and to increase vaccine take up,” said Zacca.

The three-month initiative started on Wednesday at the Mustard Seed Community in Gordon Town and will continue on Friday at the National Volunteers Centre.

According to Brown, the schedule will be rolled out each week according to the needs of the parishes. Teams will be mobilised to offer door-to-door vaccination for those who are unable to make it to a vaccination site.

She added that persons will also be given the option to choose from one of three vaccine brands – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson – based on availability.

tamara.bailey@gleanerjm.com