VOSH is truly an International organization. I respect our colleagues at other organizations such as IAPB, OGS, BHVI, WCO, and the Vision Impact Institute for all of the great work they do on an international level to address the issue of uncorrected refractive error.

I just booked my flight to the IAPB meeting in Durban, South Africa where I will be presenting a poster on our Technology Transfer Program, where VOSH takes donated equipment and moves it to schools and clinics in developing areas. The three day meeting is full of exciting lectures. In addition to the education, I look forward to the opportunity to interact with colleagues from throughout the world. It’s treuely an exciting opportunity to be affiliated with these other organizations that are making a global impact.

VOSH is often referred to as the “boots on the ground”. We have organizations that fundraise, those that strategically plan, those that guide and educate, and those that are visionaries in the fight to eliminate uncorrected refractive error. VOSH brings a unique perspective on this, as we have dedicated souls that take time off of work, at their own expense, to go to areas of need. But, the vision impact we have is a small one on our own. So, being affiliated with other organizations that approach the issue of uncorrected refractive error from their perspective is so important and so gratifying. It’s wonderful to see these other entities, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and realizing that together we’re all making a much bigger impact, all with the same end goal, but each with a unique approach, is so gratifying.

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