Guyana to receive first 3800 COVID-19 vaccines in February

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President Irfaan Ali with Prime Minister Mark Phillips and Minister Frank Anthony during the address to the nation on Saturday

President Dr Irfaan Ali on Saturday announced that Guyana will be receiving 3800 COVID-19 vaccines by next month through the COVAX facility – the global procurement mechanism that was created to increase accessibility.

During a briefing to the nation, the Head of State indicated that the first batch will be administered to the frontline medical personnel, people with comorbidities and the elderly. Through the COVAX mechanism, Guyana will receive 20 per cent of the total vaccines needed to immunise the population at zero cost.

“Last year, Guyana joined the COVAX and is now eligible for vaccines for 20 per cent of our population, which will be free of cost. We expect to receive approximately 3800 vaccines in February and March which will be assigned immediately for our frontline health workers, people with comorbidities, and our elderly,” Ali informed.

While this mechanism is in place, Guyana is also in talks with the Caribbean Community, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and European Union for the remaining vaccines. China, India and Russia have also been engaged. Thus far, China has already pledged to send 20,000 vaccines once available.

Guyanese were reminded that authorities are guided by the World Health Organisation and Pan American Health Organisation in its efforts to keep the population safe. In pursuit of this goal, Government is working with multilateral and bilateral partners while directly negotiating with the primary manufacturers of vaccines.

The President added, “Discussions are ongoing and arrangements to acquire vaccines from these countries will be finalised very shortly. We’re also negotiating with the major manufacturers: Pfizer, Biotech, Moderna and AstraZeneca and hope shortly to finalise the supply of vaccines from these manufacturers. Your Government is wholly committed to obtaining vaccines in a shortest possible time, utilising every means at our disposal for our people.”

He stressed that vaccines will give Guyana a “handle” of the situation but it is not the end of the problem.

Prepared

On the aspect of preparations to roll out the vaccination programme, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said Government is prepared and a total of 35 health teams have undergone training to administer the injections as part of the vaccine deployment plan. The expansion of storage facilities will be completed very shortly, he said.

Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Health

Speaking during the briefing, Dr Anthony outlined, “We are prepared and ready so once we start receiving the vaccines, we will be able to deploy them as rapidly as possible and in the safest manner…We have started to make sure that sites in every region are prepared and expanded so that we can store more vaccines and be able to roll that out to the public. Fourteen sites now are under expansion We’re hoping to complete that by next week or the following week. We’ve also acquired freezers ranging from -70 to the regular freezers.”

These arrangements will ensure that the vaccines are at the right temperature when administered. Once the vaccine is successfully delivered to a patient, they will receive an immunisation card. These persons will be kept under observation for a few minutes to ensure that there are no “adverse reactions”.

“We’ve estimated with these 35 teams that we have that we’ll be able to do at least 7000 vaccines per day when we start the roll-out process. Right now, we’ve done a risk analysis to determine how people may react to vaccines. It is called a hesitancy survey and we have the results of that. Based on that, we have developed a risk communication plan that just before we roll out vaccines, we’ll be able to roll that out,” the subject Minister highlighted.

It has been divulged that Government has not made the administration of coronavirus vaccines mandatory. However, citizens are encouraged to take the vaccine so as to attain herd immunity.

Enforcement

Government on Friday extended the National COVID-19 Measures, in which the curfew will remain the same throughout the month of February, that is from 22:30h (10:30 pm) to 04:00h (4 am). For this, Prime Minister Mark Phillips urged persons to ensure that they do not flout the guidelines and adhere to the curfew.

Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips

He said they have allowed businesses to partially open in a bid to have an economic balance in the country and keep income alive. He regarded villages which have been violating the guidelines as “problematic”.

 

“It is our view at the Task Force that if we as a people adhere to the measures and conduct our economic activities in keeping with the protocols outlined, that will help us to contain or reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout Guyana. We have communities that are adhering to the measures and we have seen the results of low COVID-19 transmissions in the communities,” the retired Brigadier said.

The President has expressed that managing enforcement of the measures is not an easy task but it will be intensified as the days progress.