— will be administered to children, as Guyana looks to reopen schools
GUYANA will, today, receive 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which has been earmarked for children 12 – 18 years old. The much-anticipated shipment is expected to arrive at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) during the afternoon hours, and the official handing over will be done by Charge d’ Affaires of the United States Embassy’s Security Office in Georgetown, Mark Cullinane.
On behalf of Guyana, the shipment will be officially accepted by Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, and Education Minister, Priya Manickchand.
The Pfizer vaccines given to Guyana is part of a donation of 5.5 million doses that the United States government has given to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in an effort to lend support to the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, had promised that once the US-manufactured vaccines arrive, all of it will go towards the inoculation of children from the deadly virus.
In May, US President, Joe Biden, announced that he will share 80 million vaccines with the rest of the world. Last month, he disclosed that of the first 25 million tranches of doses to be sent overseas, seven million of those will go to Latin America and the Caribbean.
The White House had stated that the initial 25 million doses will be shipped from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
It was only on Monday that Guyana received its first batch of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has been earmarked for persons residing in the Hinterland regions.
Nonetheless, the arrival of the Pfizer coincides with its status as the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A research from a 2000-plus sample size in 2020 had shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 100 per cent effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus in children ages 12 through 15. In late 2020, the FDA allowed emergency use of the vaccine from age 16. This year, the vaccine was given to children in the US from ages 12 to 15.
As it is, of the 20,000-plus COVID-19 cases in Guyana, almost 1,600 have been children under the age of 14. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is hopeful that improved and increased vaccinations among teachers, and now, children, will pave the way for the safe reopening of schools in September.
The Health Minister had recently said that his ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Education in preparation for the roll out of the vaccines. Minister
Anthony also noted earlier in the week that the Education Ministry had already commenced the distribution of consent letters to parents seeking to have their children vaccinated. “If they agree then they really don’t have to do anything but if they disagree, then they would fill the form and send it back to the school [which would indicate] that they don’t want their child getting the vaccine, and the ministry will have to respect those wishes,” Dr. Anthony said.
He noted that, once the consent forms are returned, the ministry’s health team will then be able to ensure that it has enough vaccines to accommodate the children at the various locations. “So, what we are now trying to do is to see which school, how many children would be at that school to get the vaccine. So, we are working out these things in advance to make sure that when we send the health team to that school, they would have enough vaccines for the children.”
For parents, who do not wish to have their children vaccinated, Minister Anthony said the Ministry of Education will have to explore alternatives, so that those children can continue learning. “So, we’ll see what happens, but so far from my discussions with Minister Manickchand, I understand that a lot of schools have sent out these letters. They are coming in back and most of the parents have agreed,” Minister Anthony noted.
He emphasised too that the vaccines are safe for the children to take as the relevant clinical trials have been conducted. Making reference to the United States, Dr. Anthony said a large number of children have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.
He noted that there have not been reports of significant issues. The minister is cautioning parents that once the vaccine is administered, children may experience some of the common side effects like fever and some aches, which are often associated with all vaccines.
It is hoped that the FDA’s seal of approval would see significant uptake in the Pfizer vaccines.