Vector control aides to gain additional skills
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has indicated that 1,000 persons trained, certified, and temporarily employed as community vector control aides by the HEART Trust/NTA and the Ministry of Health are likely to receive further training in additional fields.
After receiving their certification on December 10, Tufton said that the ministry would continue to work with the batch of individuals as it did not only envision them working in or with vector control.
"These vector control aides will receive further training, but they may not do vector control again. They may do something in nursing or something relating to community health," Tufton said.
The vector control aides successfully completed an eight-week training programme, which represents part of the Ministry of Health's response to tackle the Zika virus (ZIKV) in Jamaica.
Speaking at the presentation of certificates and awards ceremony held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Tufton said that through the efforts of the vector control aides, there has been a decline in the infection rate of Zika.
Tufton said that the vector control aides have been instrumental in the distribution of educational material in communities islandwide by going house to house to speak to residents about mosquito-breeding sites as well as engaging in house inspections.
The first case of the Zika virus in Jamaica was confirmed on January 29, 2016. Since then, the Ministry of Health has been ramping up efforts to combat the virus.
Sherine Huntley-Jones, programme manager for the National Vector Control Programme and medical entomologist in the Ministry of Health, said that given the small number of permanent staff the minister has on hand, it was important for them to recruit these individuals.
"In the situation of an outbreak, you want to increase the number of persons that you have on the ground taking action and implementing your interventions, hence why we went with the employment of these 1,000 persons," Huntley-Jones said.
HEART Trust/NTA, which played an instrumental role in the process, provided training for the participants in the programme who had classroom sessions that lasted eight full days followed by on-the-ground training in their various communities. They did course assessments, a final assessment in the form of a written exam, and a field assessment.
Each participant received an official certificate from HEART Trust/NTA that allows them to work in vector control in Jamaica and worldwide as a certified vector control aide.
The vector control aides will, among other things, be responsible for clean-up of the communities; identifying and destroying mosquito-breeding sites; distributing mosquito bed nets to households with pregnant women; and conducting community ZIKV surveys.
The programme, which was initially slated to run for eight weeks, will be extended until February 2017.