I wanted to share a little background on how the VOSH volunteer board and committees work. Since we’re all scattered in different states and Canada, we hold monthly board meetings via conference call. Throughout the month, there are various additional calls between various board members, committee chairs and volunteers to plan, implement and manage the wide variety of tasks and projects that VOSH is involved in.

In June many of us gathered in Boston for a face-to- face meeting during the American Optometric Association (AOA) meeting. As President of VOSH/International, I was asked to present to the American Optometric Student Association Trustee’s and Trustee-Elects. In addition, VOSH and the AOA held a joint student reception to recognize our student volunteers and the awesome job they are doing. Much thanks to the AOA Board of Trustees for taking the time out of their very busy week to mingle with VOSH.

Thanks also to the New England College of Optometry for their generous donation of their board room at the NECO Institute Center for our meeting. It’s so productive when our dedicated group of volunteers can sit in a room together. It was a busy, fast paced, productive meeting. Some of the discussion topics included branding VOSH, chapter benefits, dues, our relationship with Optometry Giving Sight, the website, legalities, our student intern program, fundraising, TTP, and VOSH Corps. Many objectives were accomplished and new goals set. As President I want to express my appreciation for those that donated their time, effort and expense to attend this meeting.

Ellen L. Weiss, OD, FVI, President

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021