The National COVID-19 Vaccination Operationalisation Task Force has committed to submit its first full report to the Andrew Holness administration by next week.
In a statement Wednesday (October 13), the Professor Gordon Shirley-led task force stated that it has handed over its preliminary findings and recommendations to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.
The news comes amid growing questions around the silence of the task force, which was appointed on September 2, and has yet to put its stamp on a national vaccination programme which has seen the country being forced to dump almost 60,000 vaccine doses in recent weeks and facing the expiration of another 260,000 at the end of this month.
Officials from the health ministry have received the brunt of the blame, most publicly from parliamentarian and wife of the prime minister, Juliet Holness, who has been unwavering in her claims that they had dropped the ball in allowing adults to access the Pfizer vaccine which had been prioritised for children.
She has asrgued that this blunder was responsible for the ministry having to halt vaccinations with the Pfizer brand which is now in short supply, even while doses of the AstraZeneca brand have been left unused and expiring.
In its statement, the task force said it was currently finalising its first full report which will be submitted by the week of October 18-22 and that it would subsequently be willing to engage the public to discuss its recommendations.
The task force said the report would provide recommendations for expanding access, mitigating vaccine hesitancy, and improving the seamlessness of the national vaccination programme.
NUMBER OF AVAILABLE VACCINATION LOCATIONS ALREADY INCREASED
Based on the need for urgent action, the task force said it has adopted “an agile approach of systematically monitoring and evaluating the vaccination programme” and has been providing the Ministry of Health & Wellness with critical evidence-based recommendations, which have contributed to improving accessibility and making the experience more seamless.
It said recommendations, to date, have led to the spatial expansion of the vaccination programme, increasing the number of available vaccination locations.
The task force said it has also provided insights for the ministry’s communications programme, regarding strategies to mitigate vaccine hesitancy across several groups of Jamaicans, and the use of multiple communication platforms to encourage take-up of the various vaccines available.
Since its appointment, the task force said it has met with a cross-section of stakeholders “to holistically understand the various issues and perspectives related to the national vaccination programme, with a view to improving its convenience and efficiency”.
This has included surveys and meetings with citizens from various social groups and on-the-ground observations from repeat visits to several vaccination sites.
The mandate of the task force is to examine and optimise the operational and logistical aspects of the national vaccination programme from end to end.
Some of the areas of focus include the improvement of the operation of vaccination sites, the development of strategies to recruit suitable personnel to enhance the delivery of vaccination services, engaging with various stakeholders to encourage and facilitate participation, and to make recommendations for an internationally accepted authentication of Jamaica’s vaccine delivery systems.
Members of the task force come from various industries including shipping and logistics, the business sector, the health sector, the legal fraternity, Government, the behavioural sciences, and the military.