The Ministry of Health’s solution to Wednesday’s farce of a national vaccination rollout has turned out to be nothing short of a hoax. There is no other word to describe the fact that the ministry issued an open invitation for the vaccine to elderly people with surnames from A to E, while being fully aware that only 50 persons would be able to get it at each centre.
Having presumably met with the heads of the Regional Health Authorities on Wednesday afternoon and worked out the next day’s vaccine figures, Minister Deyalsingh would have gone to bed that night knowing that at dawn yesterday, thousands of elderly persons would be hitting the road, heading to vaccine centres, some as soon as the curfew ended at 5 a.m. He would also have known that there would not be enough vaccines and that the large majority would be turned away at the gates, for the second day in a row in some cases. He knew all this and said nothing. No apology can compensate for this second disaster.
If Minister Deyalsingh does not know what he should now do, then it is up to the Prime Minister to act. Unless, of course, Minister Deyalsingh’s announcements were in line with agreed government policy which would put the responsibility squarely into the prime minister’s lap.
As the vaccine fiasco worsens from day to day, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has maintained his usual silence which is likely to last until his regularly scheduled news conference on Saturday. Perhaps he, too, will apologise and put the problems down to “teething problems”, as the CEO of the North West Regional Health Authority so cavalierly described Wednesday’s chaos. In any case, Dr Rowley should indicate whether this week’s disastrous rollout plan was the sole doing of Minister Deyalsingh and his RHA management team, or whether it was approved and sanctioned by the cabinet.
Yesterday, this newspaper expressed concern that the changes to the rollout plan immediately following Wednesday’s collapse of the system had been made without adequate time, thought and planning. Even with those fears, however, we could not have imagined that the plan involved RHAs administering only 50 doses.
If, as Minister Deyalsingh said yesterday, RHAs are capping the vaccines at 50 a day to facilitate regular clinics, then he should immediately turn to a solution that is already in his hands. People are desperate to be vaccinated. Last weekend, the T&T Manufacturers Association vaccinated 2,697 persons in one day. Since Tuesday, the Supermarket Association has been inoculating hundreds of its employees a day. Both programmes were introduced with the ministry’s support and are continuing under its guidance.
If the public health system does not have the resources to implement the programme on an expeditious basis, the Ministry of Health should expand the private sector’s role and focus on supervision and compliance to the required standards.
If the ministry is failing now when vaccine supplies are still very limited we shudder to think what will happen when the hundreds of thousands of doses from the United States and the African Medical Supplies Platform arrive.