–Health Minister says Guyana has enough jabs to inoculate all eligible children
THE inoculation of children between the ages of 12 and 18 years with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will commence today, Thursday, according to Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony. “We will start rolling out the programmes; we’ll have an initial programme at Saint Stanislaus College…where we’ll do, between the two ministries – Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, a sensitisation session, then we’ll do some vaccinations for students,” Dr. Anthony said during Wednesday’s edition of the daily COVID-19 update. He said that today’s session will also see the unveiling of the vaccination schedule, outlining the locations, dates and times for the administering of Pfizer, the first coronavirus vaccine to receive full approval from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dr. Anthony said that outside of the existing vaccination sites, the government will also be setting up vaccination booths at certain schools across the country.
The Pfizer vaccines, given to Guyana, is part of a donation of 5.5 million doses by the United States government to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in an effort to lend support to the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was only on Tuesday that Guyana received its first batch of the vaccines, which contained 146,250 jabs. Importantly, Dr. Anthony said that the allocation to Guyana, will have enough jabs to inoculate the country’s entire eligible young population, that is, persons below the age of 18, and up to 12.
Moreover, the Health Minister said that Guyana is also expecting the arrival of additional batches of Pfizer in the coming months.
Dr. Anthony said too that Guyana is anxiously awaiting the Emergency Use Authorisation, which would pave the way for Pfizer to be administered to children below the age of 12, particularly between the ages of five and 11 years.
“I think that it is scheduled for some time in September,” Dr. Anthony said.
He said that once the Emergency Use Authorisation is given, Guyana too will examine the possibility of immunising younger children against the deadly novel coronavirus.
The rolling out of the Pfizer vaccine is also slated to begin in several other CARICOM territories. It was in May that US President, Joe Biden, announced that he will share 80 million Pfizer jabs with the rest of the world. Last month, he disclosed that of the first 25 million doses to be sent overseas, seven million would be directed 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. The arrival of the Pfizer vaccine coincides with its FDA approval. A research from a 2000-plus sample size in 2020 had shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is almost 100 per cent effective in staving off the harmful effects of COVID-19 in children ages 12 through 15 years. 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 years.
As it is, of the 24,000-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 government is hopeful that parents will recognise the importance of having their children inoculated, and give their consent for the jabs to be administered. The distribution of consent letters has begun, and so far, some 4,000 persons have already given their consent.
“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 previously.
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. Dr. Anthony related that the vaccines are safe for the children to take as the relevant clinical trials have been conducted.
Referencing the vaccination of children in the US, Minister Anthony said that a large number of children have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and that there have not been reports of any significant issues.
The minister also cautioned parents that once the vaccine is administered, children might experience some of the common side effects like fever and aches, which are often associated with all vaccines. The authorities are optimistic that the FDA’s seal of approval would see a significant uptake in the Pfizer vaccines.