Our Children’s Vision is a new initiative spearheaded by Brien Holden Vision Institute. I had the pleasure of representing VOSH at the American Partner’s Forum for Our Children’s Vision during the Vision Expo West meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to bring VOSH, Essilor Vision Foundation, Vision Impact Institute, Eyelliance, VSP, Optometry Giving Sight, World Council of Optometry, Charity Vision, Special Olympics and others together to join forces and address the lack of eyecare for children in the United States.

An often quoted statistic is that 80 percent of learning takes place through our eyes. So it makes sense that a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to ensure that a child can see clearly at distance and near out of each eye, has eyes that come together into one clear image in the brain, and are healthy. I’ve been a licensed optometrist for 24 years now, and have worked locally to educate my patient’s parents, teachers and school nurses, and pediatricians on why it’s important for children having a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist prior to starting kindergarten. I know this has made a small difference in my community, but it’s obvious that locally and as a nation, we can do better.

The purpose of the American Partner’s Forum was to bring various different players in the eye care world together.  As discussed, “Our Children’s Vision needs local, national and global partners to help screen more children, in more regions, establish stronger referral pathways, ensure comprehensive treatment, and impact sustainable change in eye care provision.” As President of VOSH, I’m proud that we’re a team player of this united approach and look forward to our organization helping improve the lives of children.

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