TOSHAO of Karisparu Village, Candacy Evans, on Monday became the first person in Region Eight (Potaro – Siparuni) to receive the single-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The remote village which is located in the Potaro-Mahdia sub-region, is home to 450 persons, including 250 adults.
Toshao Evans said that after doing extensive research she came to realise that vaccination was the best defence against the deadly virus. She stated that it is understandable that to return to some level of normalcy, persons must protect themselves by being vaccinated.
“For me, being a toshao it was very difficult for me to not be vaccinated and not have access to government buildings and so on because I had to do many transactions for my village… I know we have to stay protected. I made up my mind to protect myself because I don’t want to catch the virus and get sick and end up in the ICU, so I prefer to take the vaccine and fight the virus. I would encourage the people to take the same decision as I did,” the village leader said.
On August 23, 2021, government received 34,000 doses of the U.S.-manufactured vaccine. Unlike the other vaccines being produced by the U.S. and several other countries, only one shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is required to become fully vaccinated. All the other vaccines require two doses to reach such a status.
Government through CARICOM brokered an initiative with the African Union for purchase of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In May, the government was said to have made a down payment of approximately $7.5 million to the African Union for 150,000 doses of the vaccine.
Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony had previously related that this vaccine would most likely be directed to persons residing in the hinterland regions of Guyana, since many of those communities are very difficult to reach.
It was explained then that when health workers are going into those areas, they have to remove the vaccines from their regional storage facilities, then travel for miles into remote villages to ensure that the vaccines are administered. This tedious exercise would then have to be repeated several weeks later, when the second dose is due.
As it is, the country’s robust vaccination programme allows citizens to access AstraZeneca, China’s Sinopharm, and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines.
Regional Health Officer of Region Eight, Johnathon Dudnaught, in an interview with the Chronicle noted that the Johnson and Johnson vaccines will significantly impact the vaccination efforts in the region. He explained that the geographic make-up of the region makes it difficult to get vaccines that require ultra-cold storage into remote communities.
“We were given this vaccine because of the logistics and the geography of our region. Our region is divided into two. The North Pakaraimas, Sub-region One and Sub-region Two, which is the Potaro-Mahdia district, and to get to the North Pakaraimas from Mahdia by trail, it takes at least three days and depending on which village you’re going to, it could take longer. By air it would take a shorter time, but of course that’s very costly,” Dudnaught explained to this publication.
The regional health official noted that he is hopeful that an additional 500 persons can be vaccinated in the region within the next two weeks.
He noted that the region has received some 500 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, in addition to the doses of AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Sinopharm vaccines that were being administered in the region since the government started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Dudnaught noted that the regional health officials will on Wednesday journey to the North Pakaraimas with doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to administer to residents. He highlighted that other target communities for this vaccine include Mountain Foot and Monkey Mountain.