National COVID-19 Vaccine Commission Named

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Jamaica News: The Ministry of Health and Wellness has named a National COVID-19 Vaccine Commission, which is comprised of a multidisciplinary, multistakeholder group of persons.

Included are representatives from the Ministry, the National Health Fund (NHF), the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCCA), the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who made the disclosure during the sitting of the House of Representatives on December 8, said the Commission had it first meeting that day.

He informed that the responsibilities of the Commission include providing guidance and oversight in the development of a National COVID-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan for the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines; providing oversight in the designing of strategies for the deployment, implementation and monitoring of a COVID-19 vaccine(s) in Jamaica; and providing guidance in ensuring that the plan and related financing are well aligned to other national COVID-19 recovery and response and support plans, and that implementation is fully integrated and coordinated.

Other tasks include guiding the establishment of an operations process for coordination, information and communication; providing guidance in the design and implementation of a public education campaign; and supporting 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 is also to, to the 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,” Dr. Tufton said.

He noted that Jamaica is procuring a vaccine through the Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility), which is a collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

“Jamaica is among the CARICOM member states on whose behalf a down payment has been made by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for equitable access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. It is important to note that the COVAX Facility continually monitors the COVID-19 vaccine landscape, 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,” Dr. Tufton said.

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 preclinical evaluation.

The Health Minister also informed that 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 said 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,” Dr. Tufton said.

He noted that the projected schedule is to have a vaccine ready for administration to about one per cent of the initial 16 per cent of the population by April 2021, with another three per cent by mid-2021 and the remaining percentage by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, as it relates to the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan being developed, the Minister said that the elements include the management structure; a review of the legal framework; demand generation and communication; training; vaccine cold chain and logistics; 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,” Dr. Tufton said.

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