Seprod Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Richard Pandohie, says consideration should be given to identifying highly trafficked locations to establish vaccination sites, such as supermarkets and market districts, as the Government looks to widen coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine access.
He contends that this would be beneficial, especially in instances where persons desirous of getting vaccinated, remain hesitant in visiting sites they deem to be far away from their homes or communities, or are discouraged by crowds at some locations.
“A lot of people don’t have their own transportation and have to rely on public transport. If they get to a location [and encounter] a crowd there, they may not [be inclined] to go back if they don’t get vaccinated on the day they go,” Mr. Pandohie points out to JIS News.
Citing his own experience, the Seprod CEO indicates that he was able to get his initial and booster shots at the branch of a popular multinational retail corporation in the United States (US).
“I believe we know where the people will and do congregate… we know where they have their conversations and that’s where we need to be… on the ground where the masses are. So, the closer we can get to the communities, the better. I think that’s a more effective way [to boost the vaccination numbers],” he tells JIS News.
The Government continues to put measures in place to spur vaccine take-up and coverage, and lower hesitancy, which will better position the country to reach its target of inoculating 65 per cent of the population by March 31.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has already taken steps to diversify options by, among other things, partnering with 11 private entities islandwide as part of the national COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, notes that this is intended to increase the number of vaccination sites available to the public and make access more seamless.
The 11 private partners, which are the first under the Ministry’s plan to expand vaccination access points, are Vein Centres of Jamaica, Health Plus Associates, Online Medics, Fontana Limited, Portmore Health Complex, Windsor Wellness Centre, Baywest
Wellness Hospital, Winchester Surgical and Medical Institute/Winchester Laboratory, Hospiten, Medical Associates, and the private practice of Dr. Michelle Holt at Nuttall Medical Centre.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has also visited communities across the island to create greater awareness about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines and increase take-up.
Mr. Pandohie, who is the Immediate Past President of Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), further suggests engaging more health practitioners, particularly those with whom persons are familiar, which will help to engender trust.
He says that persons are likely to be more comfortable going to their personal doctors to get immunised, once such an arrangement can be facilitated.
“You should be able to go to your doctor… or pharmacy… where you can have a conversation [leading to vaccination]. Most people trust their health practitioner, whether [they are at] a clinic or [in] private practice. So let them go there, speak to them, and get their advice and guidance,” he adds.
Business analyst, Warren McDonald, concurs that the vaccination process can and should be further diversified, particularly for rural folk whom, he notes, may not be keen on going to a location that is far from their homes and/or communities.
“So, I think going to the people is the answer to spurring greater vaccine take-up. I think they should also allow the physicians in whom a lot of these people have built up trust [to administer the vaccines]. These will be key to achieving those targeted [immunisation] figures,” he adds.
Over one million COVID-19 vaccines have, so far, been administered under the national response programme, being spearheaded by the Health Ministry.
Incorporated in this is the Private Sector Vaccine Initiative (PSVI), involving the JMEA, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), and Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
Well over 33,000 vaccinations have, to date, been administered under this engagement.