The Dominican government marked the beginning of the immunization chapter for the country by presenting the national vaccination plan against Covid-19, “Get Vaccinated DR” otherwise known as “Vacúnate RD.” The plan will start to be implemented this same month, as the country begins to receive doses purchased from the companies Covishield, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac. While the plan maintains priority over the most vulnerable of the population, the public still holds a myriad of concerns.
The government plan is made up of three phases, with the intention of getting the country’s 7.8 million adults vaccinated by the end of the year. The first phase starts with the vaccination of healthcare personnel directly working with Covid patients; followed by the rest of the members of the healthcare sector; then, adults 60 years and older with morbidities, prioritizing those in nursing homes; and finalized by the rest of the adults within that age range, the military, the Navy, the police, and teachers. The second phase includes adults between 50-59 years of age with morbidities, followed by the rest of the adults within that same age range. Finally, the third phase includes adults between the ages of 18-49 with a previous health condition. Subsequently, the rest of the adult population will be vaccinated.
While the public has expressed their gratitude for the arrival of the doses through numerous social media platforms, there are still many that have voiced the run-of-the-mill concerns that come with the introduction of a new vaccine. They have questioned the efficiency of such a quickly-developed treatment, the side-effects that the injections may bring, as well as the grounds of the companies and countries that developed them.
Furthermore, President Luis Abinader and Vicepresident Raquel Peña didn’t vaccinate themselves despite having promised earlier this year that they were going to be the first ones to do so, as the first doses arrived. A multitude of people noticed this, which further heightened their preexisting doubts and concerns about the vaccine. When asked about this, the president stated “We will follow protocol. Here we are all the same.”
Another aspect of the vaccine in the country that many have pointed out is that those under the age of 18 aren’t included in the distribution plan. Moreover, because the government announced that the vaccination phases will most likely be over by the end of 2021, it is probable that those under 18 won’t be vaccinated until after the start of the year 2022. Despite kids and teenagers not being as severely affected by the virus when compared to their older peers, between now and next year while the adults are getting vaccinated, there is a possibility that the virus will evolve into something worse within people that are part of this age range. Some have also wondered what will happen to kids and teenagers with medical conditions, who are at high risk. The government hasn’t addressed the latter issue, but they have stated that the younger ones aren’t included in the plan because there aren’t vaccine studies done for their ages.
There has also been apprehension over the vaccine distribution and how it fares with the education sector. The Ministry of Education (MINERD) recently announced that students will be returning to take in-person classes as March begins. Plenty are puzzled about the intentions of such a decision, considering there are only three months left of the 2020–2021 school year. Additionally, many are wondering how safe it really is to engage in an in-person school environment, especially because teachers are yet to be vaccinated, those under the age of 18 aren’t part of the vaccine distribution plan, and most parents and house members haven’t received their vaccine doses, consequently leaving them at risk of infection.
Despite the precautions and protocols that the Dominican government has taken to minimize the spread of the virus, the country has still been harshly hit by the pandemic. Despite the doubts and concerns, the vaccine is the country’s best chance at herding immunity and returning back to our normal lives, and henceforth, the government and the public must work together and cooperate in order to achieve this.