Health chief guarantees vaccination for people over 65

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Designated Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López announced Monday the signing of an administrative order requesting that six National Guard vaccination centers prioritize inoculating people over 65 years of age against the coronavirus.

During a press conference at La Fortaleza, Mellado López announced that Pedrín Zorrilla Coliseum in San Juan, Caguas Fine Arts Center, Rubén Rodríguez Coliseum in Bayamón, Ponce Exhibition Complex, Mayagüez Recreation and Sports Palace and Manuel “Petaca” Iguina Coliseum in Arecibo will vaccinate the island’s senior population for the next four weeks.

“The administrative order establishes that no one who does not belong to this group can be vaccinated,” the Health chief said, noting that the restriction excludes centers identified for vaccinating teachers and non-academic workers from both the public and private education sectors.

He also announced that a group of Health Department inspectors had already been appointed to the vaccination centers to validate the order of the processes as established from start to finish. Meanwhile, the order also clarifies that vaccinations will resume for first responders.

“I must clarify that [to obtain a turn] at the coliseums, we will be using the TurnosPR [] platform to follow the lists where many patients have registered, and we will be calling them to inform them which center to go to according to their current location,” Mellado López said.

The Health secretary-designate said senior citizens “represent the most vulnerable population and it is our duty to guarantee the vaccine to avoid infections that can be prevented.”

“This represents around 600,000 lives on the island,” he added.

Mellado López called on the general public to be respectful and wait their turn to be vaccinated, according to the current phase. He also emphasized that all vaccination requests must be directed to the Department of Health, which is the agency that leads public health efforts.

“We will not tolerate anyone skipping or advancing past the phase that corresponds to them,” he said. “Given the changes provided by the new administrative order, we will continue to be vigilant so that the guidelines are not violated under any circumstances.”

More Moderna vaccines for Puerto Rico

Meanwhile, Mellado announced that the island will begin to receive 6,800 additional Moderna vaccines per week that will be allocated to the Retail Pharmacy Program.

That adds up to 21,350 doses the island will receive weekly from Moderna. Pfizer, meanwhile, will continue to supply 20,000 doses per week.

The Health chief told members of the press that the additional vaccines will be distributed to drugstores such as Walgreens, CVS, Costco and Walmart.

“With this increase, we will have 36,000 vaccines specifically for patients who are 65 and older,” Mellado López said, noting that some 15,586 long-term care facility residents have been inoculated through 1,147 vaccination centers.

The designated Health secretary added that the island National Guard has begun vaccinating in 178 centers that are not registered as long-term care facilities, and that the Puerto Rico Physicians and Surgeons Association continues to inoculate bedridden people who aren’t living in a long-term care facility.

“In this effort, the association has vaccinated 1,792 patients,” Mellado López said. “This is a difficult task because it is necessary to go from house to house.”

He said 1,926 patients from the Health Department’s intellectual disability program have been immunized against the coronavirus.

“We report that 100% of residents from the program have been vaccinated,” he added. “This includes our seven centers in Cayey, Aibonito, Bayamón, Río Grande, Ponce, Vega Baja, and Aguadilla.”

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