Guyana to use USAID funding to improve communication to tackle Covid vaccine hesitancy

People wearing masks in capital city, Georgetown. [File photo]

Guyana will be using its share of the US $2.5 million which the US Government has made available to the Caribbean, to boost its communication strategy to reduce vaccine hesitancy here.

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony made the announcement on Wednesday, during the COVID-19 update.

The US, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated the sum to four countries in the Eastern Caribbean; Guyana, Suriname, The Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago, to support vaccination campaigns. The money adds to the almost US $63 million the US has already injected into the Caribbean to fight the pandemic.

“These funds would assist the countries in the region to improve their communication with the general population, encouraging them to get vaccinated and understand the benefits of vaccination. It also comes at the, I would say, a critical time when vaccines are now being approved for children,” Dr Anthony said.

He reminded that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-11 years, and once the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) greenlights the emergency use of the vaccine, Guyana will acquire it for its children population.

Dr Anthony said boosting the communication strategy to reduce vaccine hesitancy, will ensure more persons safeguard their children’s health, by agreeing for them to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Minister of Health noted that the government is collaborating with Johns Hopkins University to better understand the strategies needed to ensure Guyana reaches herd immunity.

“The funding that we receive from USAID would go into helping us to respond to some of these things because on a daily basis, people are on social media, and they receive all kinds of misinformation. And they tend to believe these things. So, we have to now come up with a programme to counter that.”

Due to the skepticism of some sections of society, Guyana is yet to reach herd immunity, by immunising at least 90 per cent of the population.

As of Tuesday, 379, 435 persons 18 years and older received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, representing 74 per cent of that population. Some 240, 0025 of that amount took both doses, accounting for 46.8 percent.

So far, 27, 055 children, 12-17 years took the Covid jab (31.7 per cent of the adolescent population) and 17,647 of those received the second shot (24.2 per cent).

The government continues to appeal to the population to take the vaccine to curb the spread and deaths of persons from the disease.

Earlier today, Dr Anthony told participants of a Healthcare Technology Management Training, to ensure they spread the importance of being vaccinated, as it will save lives.

“If people feel that if you get infected, its no big deal, it is a big deal because the consequences that infection can have on your body can be very detrimental or one that can cause you much problems later on in life,” he stated.