I am encouraged by the feedback following my last article concerning the logistics of COVID-19 vaccine and the immediate steps that have to be taken in order to ensure a smooth and timely deployment whenever we have those vaccines in hand. An excellent piece written by Warren McDonald (Past President of the JCC, and retired CEO of Berger Paints) in the Sunday Observer continued to define the need for immediate planning.

I was also asked several relevant logistical questions by Gordon Foote (former CEO of IBM Jamaica) and now a logistics practitioner and he offered several ideas that could assist the processes. I hope that these and other concerned Jamaicans who offer their expertise in fulfiling their civic responsibility will not be overlooked or rejected so as to favour political profilers.

Some doubts have been expressed in other countries where deaths of a number of elderly people with underlying conditions have been allegedly connected to the vaccine. I do not necessarily wish to speculate on that matter but I do believe that medical investigations are vital within a short timeframe to ascertain the veracity of the allegations/observations. Thus far, these have been related to just one brand, but there are at least another 10 or more vaccines under development.

About six weeks ago I asked a few specialist medical personnel if they had any reservations or precautions for people with existing conditions of a chronic nature, or with other viral treatments with potential medical contra-indications. The general response was that they did not know, and that they would have to await word from the usual overseas services and regulatory bodies. I found this disconcerting.

The idea that many people have an adverse reaction to a variety of medicines is by no means mine. It is conveyed in television advertisements; labels on prescription drugs; inside information leaflets; in fact, the risks HAVE to be made clear by pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and others as a part of full disclosure under the relevant laws.

Vaccines require no less caution and even more when it comes to people using auto-immune viral suppression; the natural physical ageing changes among the elderly; and those with a predisposition to allergic reactions. If I am correct, then the lack of medical and public awareness is a matter for some concern, and must be honestly addressed as a matter of urgency.

I am aware that there are several groups with differing information needs such as people living with HIV; cancer; diabetes; sickle cell; heart conditions; pulmonary illnesses; allergies; and other medical problems too numerous to mention. I therefore await the essential information that should and must accompany these vital vaccines from different sources.

I must admit that I am quite resolute as I have had the experience of a family member having a terrible reaction to the Polio vaccine in 1957, and it did not seem that he was going to live. Thank God he recovered, but the experience has traumatized me for all those years. It was an experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Today polio has been contained, but not all persons will find themselves compatible with these vaccines.

It therefore cannot be a situation where qualified medical practitioners, (many educated at taxpayers’ expense), can decide to hide the facts or seemingly ignore joining the discussion on our current medical pandemic. Their Hippocratic Oath should not be silenced by any inclination to obscure truth, science, or acquiescence to the whims of political influence or censure.

The administering of vaccines is the province of specific medical personnel under the law, and is not in any way similar to the electoral process with temporary staff and “one day police”. It is a function of public health nurses, and other specifically trained groups named in the relevant laws and regulations. It is not for tertiary students or other volunteer groups who may wish to serve.

So we need to know how many people will be available islandwide to administer the vaccines, given a shortage of nurses in most if not all hospitals and clinics, that are already under pressure from non-pandemic-related medical concerns. There are also certain environmental standards that are called for in the sanitary delivery of injections. This will determine the number and locations of centres that will be able to be used, and the personnel and equipment needed for maintaining these standards.

I urge all readers to make suggestions for efficiently expediting these processes, and where able, bring a new spirit of informed voluntarism for Jamaica land we love.

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