–President Ali alludes to procurement of more vaccines
–high vaccination uptake recorded among elderly people 60, older
AS of Thursday, more than 154,000 people were able to receive their first dose of one of the three COVID-19 vaccines being administered locally, according to President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who assured Guyanese that the local authorities will be working assiduously to procure more vaccines to immunise the targeted adult population.
On Thursday morning, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony highlighted that 150,694 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, while 6,037 have received both their first and second doses. That vaccination tally accounts for about 31 per cent of the targeted population since, Dr. Anthony had previously said that the local health authorities were targeting 500,000 adults in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
On Thursday night, however, President Ali highlighted that the number of people who received their first dose has increased even further.
Importantly too, he noted that eight of Guyana’s ten administrative regions have recorded between 30 to 36 per cent coverage of the population above 18 years old. The other two regions, Regions Eight and Ten, have not seen so many people coming forward to get their vaccines.
In fact, in Region Ten, the President said only 8.9 per cent of the population above 18 years took the vaccine. Though there have been recent efforts to increase vaccination uptake in this region, including a ministerial outreach on Sunday last, the President says more work has to be done to encourage vaccine acceptance.
While addressing the nation on Thursday night, President Ali also alluded to the government’s intention to procure additional COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that they can be administered to each adult. “Our plan is to ensure that we take this country and economy back to normalcy as soon as possible,” President Ali said, underscoring that the government will invest significant resources towards achieving this goal. He also addressed concerns that were raised about the unavailability of the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. To this end, he explained that the vaccination rollout was strategically planned to ensure that the corresponding second dose would be available to each person who already received a jab. Dr. Anthony related that the population segment of people aged 60 years and older has recorded the highest uptake of the vaccines. Their uptake was pegged at 61.3 per cent. This group of elderly people was the first age group to be offered the vaccines, following the initial administration to frontline healthcare workers. And, Dr. Anthony said that the aim is to vaccinate at least about 85 per cent of this population segment.
Meanwhile, in the 40 to 59 age group, he said that the vaccination uptake has been recorded at around 28.6 per cent. In the 18 to 39 age group, this figure stood at 20.9 per cent.
YOUNGER PEOPLE AT RISK
With the younger population recording the lowest vaccination uptake of the lot, the Health Minister addressed the false perception that younger people are less susceptible to the adverse effects of the disease, COVID-19.
“We are now seeing in the hospitals and so forth, younger patients coming in to get treatment, and in the Intensive Care Unit,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately, you see more severe cases of people between the ages of 40 and 50… We had a lot of deaths in this age group as well.”
During a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Adviser to the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy highlighted that the country is experiencing a third wave, or surge, in COVID-19 cases. This, he explained, is attributed to a deadlier form of the novel coronavirus circulating locally.
Since March, when the first case of COVID-19 was recorded, there have been higher infection rates among younger people. Previously, Dr. Anthony reasoned that the prevalence of the disease among the younger population could be attributed to how active they are.
Dr. Anthony, however, stressed that younger people are no longer just affected with the milder form of COVID-19 as before.
To protect against this worse form of the virus, the Health Minister on Thursday sought to remind members of the public that all of the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against preventing the severe forms of COVID-19. As such, the vaccines can prevent hospitalisations and deaths.
He also noted that avoiding crowds and social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining sanitisation habits are crucial.
The COVID-19 vaccines used in Guyana are: The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute in India, the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, and the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. These vaccines are available across the country to all individuals aged 18 years and older, but they are not mandatory.
Since the launch of the vaccination campaign, the Health Ministry has been partnering with several faith-based and non-governmental organisations, along with the private sector to take the vaccines to the people.
Though some of Guyana’s regions present unique accessibility challenges due to their geography and size, Director of Primary Healthcare Services, Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton underscored that there have been efforts to ensure that there is equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across Guyana.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony also noted that there are several COVID-19 hotspots, including: Tuschen (Region Three), Sophia and Kitty (Region Four), Bartica (Region Seven), and Aishalton (Region Nine). In Bartica, specifically, he noted that there can be increased collaborations for the vaccine outreach.