Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has given details about Jamaica’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, including the process of securing a vaccine for the country.
In a statement to Parliament this afternoon, Tufton disclosed that a National Deployment and Vaccination Plan is being developed for consideration by the recently established National Vaccine Commission, which held its first meeting today.
Tufton told members of parliament that the elements of that plan include vaccine cold chain and logistics, training, the management structure, a review of the legal framework, safety surveillance and information systems.
“Once finalised, the plan will be shared with the members of this Honourable House and the people of Jamaica in whose best interest we are operating as we seek to secure for them the best possible health outcomes from COVID-19,” Tufton said in addressing the House of Representatives.
The health minister listed the terms of reference of the commission, which is a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder group of persons.
COMPOSITION OF THE COMMISSION
The commission comprises representatives from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the National Health Fund (NHF), the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
The terms of reference are as follows:
· Provide guidance and oversight in the development of a National COVID-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan for the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines.
· Provide oversight in the designing of strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of a COVID-19 vaccine(s) in Jamaica.
· Provide guidance in ensuring that the plan and related financing is well aligned to other national COVID-19 recovery and response and support plans, and that implementation is fully integrated and coordinated.
· Guide the establishment of an operations process for coordination, information and communication.
· Provide guidance in the design and implementation of a public education campaign.
· Support the implementation of health services readiness and capacity assessments to identify bottlenecks and guide delivery of vaccines and other essential supplies.
Among other things, the commission will also, to any extent possible, facilitate cooperation at policy, technical and local levels between government, non-governmental, private sector agencies or organisations and civil society in the process of the plan’s development and implementation.
JAMAICA’S CURRENT VACCINE STATUS
Tufton gave Parliament an update on the situation regarding a vaccine for Jamaica to fight the spread of the global pandemic.
“Jamaicans can be assured that we are procuring vaccines through the COVID-19 Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) that is a collaboration with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI),” he told Parliament.
Jamaica is among the CARICOM member states on whose behalf a downpayment has been made by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for equitable access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
Tufton was quick to point out that the COVAX Facility continually monitors the COVID-19 vaccine landscape and identifies the most suitable vaccine candidates, based on scientific merit and scalability, while seeking to build a diversified portfolio across different technologies, geographies and vaccine characteristics.
As at December 2, there were some 51 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation, 11 of which are in phase three trials. There are 163 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation.
According to Tufton, “at this time, the vaccine being administered in other jurisdictions is NOT part of the COVAX Facility but there are three other vaccine candidates that are in the final phases of development and approval.”
He further told Parliament that the expectation is that, in the first instance, Jamaica will vaccinate 16 per cent of the population.
“With the goal to protect public health and minimise societal and economic impact by reducing COVID-19 mortality, the intention is to prioritise the vaccination of our health workers who are at very high risk of acquiring and transmitting infection and our older adults who we understand are among the most vulnerable to adverse outcomes and death associated with COVID-19 infection,” he said.
Jamaica has more than 11,000 COVID-19 infections and 265 deaths