“Encouraging start” as 153 children aged 5-11 get vaxxed against Covid-19

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A child getting vaccinated at the launch of the Covid-19 immunisation drive for the 5-11 age cohort

As Government begins the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for the 5-11 age group, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said once the immunisation drive proves successful, plans are already in place to access 60,000 more doses to meet the local demand.

Guyana on June 6, 2022, received a shipment of 52,800 doses of the specially-formulated Pfizer vaccines for this age group of children, a donation from the Government of Spain.

Following this donation, the Government organised a vaccination drive at the National Cultural Centre tarmac on Saturday where parents brought out their children to get the jabs.

A total of 153 children within the 5-11 age cohort got vaccinated at the event. Health Advisor Dr Leslie Ramsammy, in an invited comment, noted that this figure is an “encouraging start”.

“We will plan more outreaches through drive-throughs, in schools, through house-to-house campaigns and through health centres,” Dr Ramsammy told this publication on Sunday.

In fact, he said authorities will be targeting the Line Path Primary School in Skeldon, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) today.

Meanwhile, speaking to the media on the sidelines of the vaccination drive on Saturday, the Health Minister said based on the response to this shipment of vaccines, the Government has a backup plan in place to access another 60,000 doses.

“This was an event we were planning for a long time; we had anticipated that we would have been able to access these vaccines for a while now, but there were lots of challenges, getting vaccines for this age group because, there is a global shortage of these types of vaccines. We were, however, very pleased when we approached the Government of Spain that they readily agreed to donate these paediatric doses to us,” the Health Minister explained.

He noted that permission slips will be given out to schools through a collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and schools with a larger percentage of parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated will be visited.

At the event, Dr Ramsammy had told the media that no child will be left behind in this campaign.

“The fact of the matter is, COVID is not over. Too many of us believe that COVID has come, did its thing and has left, it has not left, and indeed what the world is finding is the emergence of newer variants, some of which have learnt to escape the vaccine, and if we don’t take advantage now of vaccinating our children our elderly, and all persons from five and above we are creating the platform for new variants,” Dr Ramsammy said.

Guyana is one of the first countries in this region to acquire the Pfizer vaccines, for children 5-11 years. The Ministry of Health is urging parents and guardians to make use of this opportunity to get their children vaccinated.

In March 2022, authorities had expressed concerns about the potential wastage of these vaccines, if parents do not consent to their children receiving the jabs.

This was in light of the low vaccination uptake for the 12-18 age cohort.

“Vaccines are available and it is astonishing that you have something that could help reduce the severity of COVID and we still have hesitancy where parents are not allowing their children to come forward and get vaccinated,” the Health Minister had bemoaned.

He added, “if the vaccination rates that we’re seeing in the 12 to 17 age group, it’s not really encouraging because we have these vaccines right now and yet we have some amount of hesitancy and parents are not bringing their children for the 12 to 17. So, when we get the vaccines for the 11 to 5, I hope that we will get parents bringing out their children, because the Government is investing substantial sums of money to be able to acquire these vaccines.”

It was recently noted that while the majority of the confirmed COVID-19 cases are adults, one-third of the 65,272 cases recorded as of June 6 are among children.

In March 2022, it was revealed that some 10,078 persons under the age of 19 were infected with COVID since the start of the pandemic – representing 15 per cent of total cases detected in the country.