— Health Minister says, efforts being made to secure vaccines for more Guyanese
THE 20,000 vaccines that will be donated by China to aid Guyana’s fight against the COVID-19 virus will be from Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company that is developing two COVID-19 vaccines, according to Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony.
On Tuesday, while answering questions posed by the Guyana Chronicle during his daily COVID-19 briefing, Dr Anthony related that the country is concluding arrangements to receive those donations from China.
This vaccine, reportedly, has an efficacy of 79.34 per cent, from all the clinical trials conducted and it has already been given emergency use authorisation in China and a number of other countries. Commenting on these vaccines, the minister said that the efficacy rate (or the effectiveness of the vaccine) is “pretty good”.
But outside of this donation from China, Guyana will also receive nearly 104,000 Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine doses from the COVAX facility, a global vaccination alliance, in the coming weeks. This vaccine needs to be given in two doses, which means that 52,000 persons will be able to benefit.
Dr Anthony reminded that the Health Ministry is focused on using the vaccines to immunise frontline workers, the elderly and persons with co-morbidities (other underlying medical conditions) first. He said that there are about 22,000 healthcare workers who are all eligible to receive the vaccines, while the remainder will go to the other two groups.
“We are making other arrangements to be able to acquire more vaccines, so we should have enough vaccines for the elderly and persons with co-morbidities. (These arrangements) haven’t been completed as yet, but we are very optimistic that we will have more vaccines for persons in those areas,” he highlighted, adding: “When we complete the health workers and the elderly and people with co-morbidities, then we will go to the next level, which is other people in the population.”
What is important to note is that the government will not be making vaccination mandatory, so persons who are eligible have the ability to opt out of receiving these immunising agents. But, the minister did advise persons who are offered, to take it, since that will help to minimise infections and reduce their chances of being hospitalised.
Widespread vaccination is the “exit strategy” for the pandemic; this means that only when about 80 per cent of the population is immunised through vaccination or through recovering after contracting the virus, would there be some sort of ‘normalcy’.
To cater for the deployment of vaccines, Guyana’s vaccination capacity has been bolstered. Since Guyana was not yet sure which of the COVID-19 vaccines it will receive, in anticipation, the country secured the necessary cold chain infrastructure to ensure that it is equipped to store the vaccines at temperatures that are cold enough.
Additionally, healthcare workers are being trained to administer the vaccines to adults, since a majority of Guyana’s vaccination regime deals with immunising children. Also, since COVID-19 vaccines require two doses over a period of time, copious record-keeping must be done. Health workers must also be trained to spot and treat potential side-effects of the vaccine, though these are not common.