A release from the PNP media centre noted that previously, it was announced that 10,000 JDF personnel had been included in the Phase 1 group totaling 247,789, but no indication had been given of the intra-group prioritization. There were also 174,987 elderly persons included in Phase 1 group.
The Shadow Minister of Health – Dr Morais Guy - stated “This approach is not in keeping with the recommendations of the WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing uses of COVID-19 vaccines in the context of limited supply. In our current epidemiological setting and vaccine supply scenario, health workers at very high risk of acquiring and transmitting infection and then older adults defined by age based risk should be the top priority groups for receipt of the vaccine.”
Almost by definition, the JDF is comprised of persons who are fit and healthy. The vast majority are under 40, and both Officers and enlisted personnel retire by their mid-50s at the latest. They take regular health and fitness tests, and also have good health services reserved for them. Elderly persons living in congregant facilities should be a top priority.
Public health authorities (such as WHO and CDC) have determined that the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID is ten to twenty times greater for elderly persons than it is for persons in the median age of a JDF soldier. Therefore, the approach to prioritize healthy soldiers over the elderly is unethical. Dr Guy questioned, “Is this fallback position precipitated by the MoHW’s bungling of the vaccine rollout during its first week? This was evidenced by the crash of the MoHW’s COVID vaccine registration site at the outset, and also by the many persons not included in Phase 1 who were nevertheless vaccinated.”
The Opposition calls on the Minister of Health to reverse this decision and pursue an approach which prioritizes those at highest risk by virtue of age and comorbidities, as well as health care workers who are the first responders in this pandemic. The Minister must give an account for this decision which flies in the face of the established guidelines for fair, just, and ethical vaccine distribution in this pandemic.
The Opposition is also concerned with the splitting of the process into phases 2 and 3, with persons working in some industries being favoured while all others will be deferred, in what is a life or death situation.
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