President-Elect Tracy Matchinski and I had the honor of representing VOSH at the World Council of Optometry (WCO) meeting on September 11-13, 2017 in Hyderabad, India. The World Council of Optometry represents optometrist throughout the world and advocates for the advancement of the profession. It’s always educational to me to interact with other organizations that represent optometry on a global basis, especially in developing countries where optometry clinics may be scarce, schools of optometry may not exist, or optometry is not recognized as a profession.

The WCO meeting offered a wide variety of excellent continuing education classes. Doctor Matchinski and I presented a course titled “Evaluation and Management of pediatric patients with visual impairment and pediatric patients with special needs” and also a Poster on the progress of our VOSH Corps program. One highlight of the trip was when our VOSH Philippine Chapter saw on Facebook that we were attending the meeting and found us in the exhibit hall to say hello. It’s always a pleasure visiting with our chapters, especially those international ones that we rarely have a chance to connect with personally. 

After the meeting, Dr. Matchinski spent two days lecturing at the LV Prasad Eye Institute symposium to optometrist from many different countries. Thanks to Dr. Vijaya Gothwal and her co-workers for touring me through their state of the art facility.

I look forward to seeing you at the VOSH Annual Meeting in Chicago on Saturday, October 14, where our theme “Winning Together” reflects my belief in our strength in numbers.

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