More teachers, students need to be vaccinated for a “very safe” school environment – Health Minister

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A number of teachers in the public school system have still not yet been immunised against COVID-19, and Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony is making a plea for them to take the shots.

By taking both doses of the vaccine, as well as booster shots, teachers will help to keep the school environment safe, Dr. Anthony noted.

“I think there is still a number of teachers who are unvaccinated, so, if we want to have a very safe school environment, then I think we should encourage those teachers to get vaccinated, because without being vaccinated, they are putting themselves, obviously at risk for infection and not just in school, but generally in the community,” Dr Anthony said during his daily update, Monday.

He said the Health Ministry has not asked that any school be closed, as it is the mandate of the Ministry of Education to ensure children attending sessions are in a safe environment.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is still seeking to increase the vaccination rate among persons within the 12-17 age category. Vaccination among adolescents currently stands at 42.6 percent.

“For these children we need them to get not just a first dose, but second dose and there is also that possibility of some of them also getting a booster dose, so there is a lot of work to be done with this age group to make sure that they are fully vaccinated,” he noted.

He said parents and teachers need to encourage children to get vaccinated.

“We are willing as a Ministry, if we have special requests from schools, to be able to go to that school and conduct such vaccination exercise and also if we are going to do that, the teachers and the school’s administration would have to help us to make sure that we get parental consent,” Dr. Anthony said.

He said further that the Delta and Omicron variants of the Covid-19 disease are not the same. With the Delta variant, persons get a more severe form of the disease which may cause death or require hospitalisation due to the effects on the lungs and subsequent multiorgan disfunction.

The Omicron, he said, is different.

“Generally, we see persons who are infected would have the disease more in the nose, in their throat, so it behaves more like an upper respiratory tract infection, however there are some people who would have comorbidities, who certainly would become hospitalised because of its contagiousness, it is certainly, by our numbers affecting more people, and since more people are affected, you would have, relative to that, hospitalisation. So far, our numbers are pretty ok, because when you look at, say almost 6,000 infections over the last couple of days, correspondingly of these 6,000 persons, very few of them required hospitalisation, Dr. Anthony said.

The Health Minister noted that the Covid-19 facility at Ocean View has 51 persons, which is a low ratio compared to those infected.

Meanwhile, health authorities are still trying to source the special vials manufactured by Pfizer for children 5-11 years.

“The team here, we actually believe that we can dilute it appropriately but Pfizer has made a special vial with the same vaccine but in different proportions, so we are now trying to source that, that generally is only available in the United States and there is some difficulty trying to get it for other countries but, nevertheless we are working to see if we can do that.”

He said an arrangement is being pursued with Caricom to see whether the vials could be acquired in bulk so Guyana could easily benefit. The difficulty has arisen because of the demand by other countries.