The time has come for the creation of a parallel health system to facilitate the acceleration of administering vac­cines in sufficient quantities, in order for the country to achieve herd immunity in the shortest possible time frame.

The beleaguered Ministry of Health is making a valiant effort, but is obviously overwhelmed. A possible solution is collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development for the use of community centres that are strategically located within communities across the country, to be manned mainly by volunteers under the supervision of the regional health authorities (RHAs).

Older people (60 years and over) who have so far been the dominant group succumbing to the Covid-19 infection paradoxically now have the potential to be a valuable resource as game-changers in the national vaccination rollout initiative. The time has come to request the services of retired professionals as volunteers in accelerating the vaccination thrust.

From a sociological perspective, volunteerism is a form of role replacement for retirees, many of whom would embrace the opportunity to render service to the country in this desperate hour of need.

Retired teachers and non-medical professionals are capable of handling the registration exercises at vaccina­tion centres while retired nurses and medical professionals undertake more direct client-contact functions in administering the vaccines, with retired volunteers from the protective services providing required security.

This is not rocket science and the logistics can be configured. The expected outcomes are: allowing health centres and district heath facilities to conduct their routine services with minimal involvement of their staff in vaccination exercises, and a significant increase in the number of people being vaccinated daily within their communities, thus shortening the period for the country’s acquisition of herd immunity.

A clarion call should go out from the RHAs to eligible retirees who have received at least the first dose of the vaccine to become volunteers. The opportunity should also be taken to provide vaccinations to unvaccinated volunteers who wish to receive it, and no one should be allowed to function without being vaccinated.

Zonal groups of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Retired Persons (TTARP) are ideally positioned to mobilise their members to serve in this life-saving venture.

Bernice Dyer-Regis

health promotion specialist

via e-mail

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