Guyana may receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccine from African Union
A third-year emergency medicine resident gets one of the first COVID-19 vaccinations at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on December 14 (Photo Courtesy of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)
A third-year emergency medicine resident gets one of the first COVID-19 vaccinations at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on December 14 (Photo Courtesy of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

— Minister Anthony

IT may be possible for Guyana to also receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which have high degrees of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 infection after the two doses, from the African Union, according to Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony.

On Thursday, while responding to questions raised by Opposition Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister of Health, Dr Karen Cummings, in the National Assembly, Dr Anthony announced that Guyana is earmarked to receive an additional 149,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.

These vaccines will be garnered from the African Union, through an agreement brokered by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As part of this agreement, Caribbean countries will receive about 1.5 million doses in total. The quota earmarked for Guyana is just less than 10 per cent of the vaccine doses that will be distributed to the Caribbean region

On Friday, during his COVID-19 Update with the Department of Public Information (DPI), Dr Anthony noted that the 149,000 doses from the African Union will be paid for by the Government, as Guyana has expressed an interest in receiving vaccines through this mechanism.

While he was not certain which vaccines(s) the country will receive through the union, since those discussions are ongoing, he said, “I think they might have access to the mRNA vaccines which would be the Pfizer, Moderna and Astrazeneca vaccines.”

Messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccines are made using a technology that delivers some amount of genetic code to cells in the body to make the ‘spike’ or protein on the Sars-Cov-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19). These proteins are then able to activate the body’s immune system, allowing it to detect the spike protein from COVID-19 as ‘foreign’ or ‘unwanted’ and subsequently, develop antibodies to fight it.

Pfizer and Moderna, which have an efficacy of 95 per cent and 94.1 per cent respectively, are mRNA vaccines. The Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccines, which Guyana is already expected to receive nearly 104,000 Oxford-Astrazeneca doses of, through the global vaccination alliance known as the COVAX facility, is reportedly 62 per cent effective. The Astrazeneca is also, reportedly, approximately 90 percent effective with a lower dose than the required two doses.

These vaccines are all given in two doses, which means that 52,000 persons will be able to benefit from the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine while 74,500 persons will benefit from the vaccines from the African Union. Guyana will also receive 20,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China, which means that about 10,000 persons can become immunised.

Most of the COVID-19 vaccines are distributed through two-dose regimens because the first dose helps the body to recognise the virus and ‘wake up’ one’s immune system, while the second shot- which is given a few weeks later- helps to strengthen or boost the immune system generated after the first dose.

Altogether, thus far, Guyana has been able to secure 273,000 vaccine doses which could be used to immunise some 136,500 individuals, or approximately 18 per cent of the population. The Government is in talks with India, Russia and China in addition to a number of multilateral agencies and the manufacturers of the vaccines themselves to secure more vaccines for the population, since vaccines are the means of leaving the pandemic.

The Health Minister has continuously emphasised that the vaccines will be used to immunise frontline workers, the elderly and persons with co-morbidities (other underlying medical conditions) first. 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.


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