Some Jamaican citizens may end up having to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine later this year.
The private sector organization on the island says it wants to team up with the ministry of health to vaccinate up to 70 percent of the population this year. The ministry of health and wellness had plans to provide the shots free of cost to 16 percent of the population in 2021.
The proposed public-private partnership sees the private sector groups assisting the ministry in sourcing, storage and transportation of approved vaccines; administering training; marketing and public relations; as well as the vaccination of private-sector workers and staff.
The private sector has also recommended that it be allowed to import vaccines with the approval of the MOHW.
“To facilitate this vaccination of the workforce, we recommend that the private sector be allowed to purchase and import its own supply of vaccination for deployment, under the supervision and guidance of the MOHW in the same manner as non over the counter drugs are now handled,” said Christopher Zacca, President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica, and a former president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
“We are attempting to reach herd immunity through this partnership in the shortest possible time…I believe the Ministry views that as 60 to 70 percent of the population, so that would be in the region of one and half to two million people,” Zacca said.
The private sector plans could see many Jamaicans having to pay for the shot if they choose not to wait on free inoculation from the government.
Dr Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health, says he is on board with the initiative as it means Jamaica would sooner be over the hump of COVID-19.
“Whatever private entity decides that they want to take some in, pay for it and administer it, for example, to their employees, then I think the more the merrier and I would certainly encourage it, but it will not impact or affect the Government’s responsibility to provide a vaccine,” he said.
“There may be some that can afford to pay for it — and they should and I would encourage it frankly speaking.”
The health minister stressed that “paying won’t hurt the process” as there was no chance of persons needing the vaccine and not being able to access it. He said that the ministry of health has an obligation to provide the vaccine free of cost to the country’s citizens.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has also praised private sector entities for the initiative.
“I was informed that many private sector companies are seeking to ensure that they can get supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for their staff,” he said.
The Prime Minister said this demonstrates that they are “not just waiting on the Government,” but are being proactive by taking steps to source vaccines.