‘Political mischief’ fuelling vaccine hesitancy in Region 10
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Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony
Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony

–Health Minister

MEASURES implemented by the government to safeguard the lives of persons in Guyana against the deadly COVID-19 virus have not resonated well with some residents of Region 10, who eschewed their daily tasks as a form of protest against those measures on Monday.

Commercial banks, supermarkets, gas stations, commercial businesses and pharmacies in the region were closed.

This action by some residents of Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) follows Saturday’s gazetted order, which states that persons must be vaccinated, make an appointment, or present a negative result from a PCR COVID-19 test before they are allowed to access public buildings.

The previous order had said that these requirements were in place for government ministries and government agencies. The new guidelines are applicable for September, unless earlier revoked or amended.

Health workers continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines in Region 10, despite protest by some residents (Quacy Munroe photo)

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony, during Monday’s edition of the daily COVID-19 update, said that the updated vaccination policies are in place to ensure public safety.
“Once people are vaccinated, environments will be safer, and we have to create a safe environment if we are to push back against the virus,” the Health Minister said.

He believes that the measures will not only protect those accessing a specific service, but also those employed at those establishments.

Those benefits were, however, not enough to convince residents of Region 10, who, Dr. Anthony believes, might have been victims of “political mischief”.

In fact, Chairman of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region 10, Deron Adams, said that the actions on Monday constituted a peaceful demonstration by citizens expressing their “dissatisfaction” and “frustrations” with the government policies.

MISINFORMATION
Dr. Anthony, while speaking generally about the receptiveness of residents of Region 10 to the COVID-19 response efforts, said the hesitancy, especially regarding vaccination against the deadly disease, is as a result of misinformation and “political mischief”.

“As it is right now, Region 10 is the region with the lowest rates of vaccination for both first and second dose, and that has put them at severe risk of infection. So, you know, if we continue along this way, all we’re doing is endangering people’s lives there,” the Health Minister related.

Based on the most recent statistics from the Ministry of Health, some 320,747 persons, or 62.5 per cent of the country’s adult population, have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 168,201 persons, or 32.8 per cent of the adult population, are fully inoculated. Additionally, 9,909 adolescents have taken the Pfizer vaccine.

Although a breakdown of those figures, by region, was not immediately available, the Guyana Chronicle understands that Region 10 accounts for a small, if not the smallest, fraction of those numbers.

This is despite efforts by health officials to implement measures in Region 10, as is being done in every region across Guyana, to safeguard the health of persons there.

“In terms of our preparedness in Region 10, we have a section of the hospital where we hospitalise COVID-19 patients, and over the last week, we would have had about 10 persons who are hospitalised. They have now been discharged, because they’re feeling much better.

“We have adequate medication, we have the equipment, we have oxygen and all those things up there to manage those patients. If they become more critical, then we move them from that hospital across to the Ocean View facility, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Dr. Anthony related.

WORKING ASSIDUOUSLY
The Health Minister went on to acknowledge the efforts of health officials in the region, who, he said, are working assiduously to ensure that infected persons are treated, and that the spread of the disease is mitigated.

But even with the collective effort of health officials in the region to combat the disease, the pervasive “political mischief” could stymie attempts to overcome the challenges created by COVID-19.

“So, you have some anti-vaxxers in Region 10 who are clutching at anything that they can to just tarnish the work that the staff is doing in terms of vaccination and managing COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony lamented.

As a result of the “mischief”, persons will not get vaccinated, and will put themselves more at risk of developing the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.

According to the US’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades.

“COVID-19 vaccines are not experimental; they went through all the required stages of clinical trials. Extensive testing and monitoring have shown that these vaccines are safe and effective,” the CDC stated.

The reputable organisation further related that COVID-19 vaccines also help to keep persons from getting seriously ill, even if they do contract COVID-19. By getting vaccinated, a person may also protect people around them, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

“I would urge those persons who call themselves leaders in Region 10 to really work in the interest of the citizens of Region 10, and desist from this nonsense of trying to spread rumours, and creating this type of hesitancy in the region,” Dr. Anthony said.

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