THE COVID-19 pandemic will not go away any time soon and could drag on well into the next year. This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recently warned that the pandemic is likely to go on much longer than anticipated because poorer countries are not getting the vaccines they need.
The statistics show that less than five per cent of Africa’s population has been vaccinated compared to an average of 40 per cent in most other parts of the world. In fact, more than 50 countries have been unable to meet the WHO target for 10 per cent of their population to be fully-vaccinated by the end of September. Most of these countries are low-income countries which have been severely challenged financially to procure vaccines in adequate quantities to meet the vaccination needs of their respective populations.
Despite the assistance rendered to many countries to get supplies of the vaccines through the Covax mechanism, a significant number of countries have been left behind and there are still a few countries that are yet to roll out vaccination programmes to their populations. The Covax mechanism was set up to ensure that every individual has access to the COVID-19 vaccines, but was forced to scale back on its target because of inadequate funding, vaccine nationalism on the part of some of the richer nations and other logistical issues. Despite the constraints, it still managed to provide vaccines to several countries including Guyana. Unlike some other countries, Guyana did not depend only on the donations from Covax, but was highly proactive in getting supplies from other suppliers and from other friendly countries.
Part of the difficulty faced by some countries in the developing world has to do with the fact that some of the commitments made by the wealthier countries to donate vaccines to low income countries through the Covax mechanism or directly through bilateral engagements are yet to be fully realised. Several commitments were made at the recent UN General Assembly and other fora by the richer nations regarding vaccine donations but so far, much of that is still to be realised. Recent research on vaccine supplies in the G7 and the EU found that of the more than one billion doses pledged, less than 15 per cent have actually been delivered to date.
This is not to suggest that the richer nations have to bear the full burden of responsibility for vaccines shortages in low income countries. A lot has to do also with policies and programmes by individual countries and the extent to which they have been able to surmount internal challenges such as vaccine hesitancy and other forms of political and cultural impediments. There are some countries that are lagging behind not because of their inability to source the vaccines but because of logistical issues, a lack of an aggressive and robust roll-out plan and in some cases internal conflicts and political turmoil.
Guyana has done relatively well in terms of its vaccination drive and although there is no perfect metric on how to measure progress made in terms of vaccination and infection rates, it is no exaggeration to say that the country has been doing an exceptionally good job in the rolling out of its vaccination plan and in getting an increasing number of its population to take the vaccines. So far over 315,000 persons or approximately 62 per cent of the adult population have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and more than 162,000, amounting to some 32 per cent have received their second doses.
The ministry is also concurrently rolling out its adolescent vaccination programme which, from all indications, has been going on at a satisfactory pace. Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony has commended parents for allowing their children to take the vaccines and reminded parents and guardians that the US FDA-approved vaccines are not only safe, but also very effective in preventing the spread of the deadly COVID-19-virus.
The situation in the country, however, still remains worrying despite some recent progress in terms of infection rates. There can be no room for complacency and all Guyanese are encouraged to take the vaccines and to follow all the required guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Health. There is only one sure way to break the back of the pandemic and that is to ensure that the full cohort of eligible Guyanese is fully vaccinated.
The PPP/C administration has been doing everything within its power to make the vaccines available to the country and its people. It is the responsibility and duty for us all to do our part to bring an end to the pandemic.