The Health Ministry on Thursday officially commenced the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 12 and above – a gamechanger as Guyana seeks to navigate through the pandemic.
The launch of the rollout at the St Stanislaus College paved the way for students to get inoculated using the 146,250 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines which arrived in Guyana earlier in the week as a donation from the United States Government.
Danah Shiwgobin, a 12-year-old student of the St Stanislaus, was the first child to receive the vaccine. After receiving the vaccine, the eighth-grader said she was ‘perfectly fine’. Shiwgobin recalled that it was quite a simple process which her parents followed, and then she was cleared to receive her jab.
“It was actually really simple. All you need to do is fill up a form, make sure your parents sign the consent form, and they just ask a few questions, like if you had any transfusions, any sickness or anything. That’s it basically, and then you just go and they will give you the vaccine,” she explained.
To children who are hesitant to take the vaccine, the student assured, “I will say, ‘Go ahead for it’, because this is actually the only solution right now. For students that haven’t taken it, I’m not sure if they have anything planned for them as to if they’re going to continue online classes and so on.”
Shiwgobin was followed by Ramon Cummings, a business student in his fifth year at the institution. By the end of the exercise, 213 children had received their first jab.
With this leg of Guyana’s vaccine campaign officially launched, a significant number of persons took their shots at the College.
Education Minister Priya Manickchand said it brings the country one step closer to the reopening of schools, preventing further cases of dropout.
“We have seen ourselves right here how much our students have dropped back, and how many have already left the classroom. We commit to making sure that we track each and every student who should’ve been in school, to bring them back into the school, and to make sure that once they come back in, the remediation that is needed to make their presence in the classroom practical and sensible is done,” she asserted.
The Education Minister added that, in a time when there are great threats triggered by deadlier variants and rising cases, persons should only make the logical decision based on science-based evidence to protect themselves.
“We cannot afford – at this time when there is an existential threat hanging over our heads, with new variants coming to our shores and attacking our people – to be hesitant about positions we take; we cannot prevaricate on positions. The science and the medicine is clear…We’re going to come community to community, school to school, drive thru after drive thru to give every child who requires a vaccine a shot in the arm. Once we do that, we will come back to the schools, do that safely, and we’re going to take our country back. COVID shall not win,” Manickchand stressed.
This Pfizer vaccine is only made available for children 12 years and above. Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony informed that Government would await data from current clinical trials to determine whether younger children can be immunised.