Some J’cans may have to pay for COVID jab

CONCERNS are emerging that some Jamaicans could end up paying for COVID-19 vaccines as the country draws closer to accessing the first batch of shots for specified categories of people.

The private sector has indicated that it wants to get involved in the process, which means vaccines would come at a cost for those who opt to be immunised outside of the public health system.

The Government has promised that the vaccines will be administered free.

Health Minister Christopher Tufton on Wednesday endorsed the move by the private sector, stressing that this would be adding to the pool of vaccines that will become available, and poses no threat to the Government’s ability to immunise the population.

“Whatever private entity decides, subject to availability 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 in a way that is in keeping with universal health access,” he said yesterday while chairing a joint select committee of the House on the novel coronavirus pandemic and related matters.

He pointed out that both public and private health care already coexist and would therefore not be out of the questions for the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

“I don’t think we should ignore that principle should equally apply to source a commodity that is important to addressing COVID and serve the greater good of our population; there may be some that can afford to pay for it — and they should and I would encourage it frankly speaking — and for those who can’t, the public health system has an obligation to ensure that they get,” said Tufton.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. However, Dr Tufton said the proposal requires further discussion and coordination.

Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western Anthony Hylton, who had raised the matter, questioned whether private sector involvement would bring profiteering into the picture.

On Wednesday, key private sector organisations announced that the sector will be working with the Government to boost the deployment of vaccines in the island in order to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce said the sector is ready to assist with procurement of vaccines, as well as transportation, storage, marketing and public relations.