20,000 COVID-19 vaccines to arrive today

…80,000 more next week, another 100,000 by month-end – Dr Anthony

This week, Guyana will receive 100,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines, which will arrive in two tranches and immediately kick-start the countrywide vaccine administration.
Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony made the revelation during Monday’s budget presentation at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre. While 20,000 vaccines will arrive today, another 80,000 will be delivered on March 8. The country is also awaiting doses from the COVAX mechanism, also slated to arrive in March.
“We will be getting 20,000 more vaccines that are coming in and we’d be using that to immunise our workers. On the 8th March, we’ll be getting 80,000 more vaccines for the people of this country. Later in the month, we’ll be getting another 100,000 through the COVAX mechanism so that we can immunise our population…This is what is going to get us out of COVID-19,” Dr Anthony told the House.
Guyana had already used the 3000 vaccines donated by Barbados to vaccinate frontline health workers in several regions.
Dr Anthony addressed the Opposition’s claims that Government does not have a workable plan, underscoring that the coalition failed to stabilise the situation when cases were first detected. He reminded that when the sector was inherited, there were several deficiencies as it relates to testing and contact tracing.
“If they were so effective and if they had such a good plan, then after we had the first case and the first death, then they would have been able to do all the contact tracing and we would have liquidated COVID-19 from Guyana. But the truth was that they were in shambles. They didn’t know what to do and so they were scrambling for a response. They were not able to do PCR testing and so we had to build capacity in almost every area for the response.”
The coalition had left office without completing the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal and in a state where millions of dollars had to be pumped into correcting some of the construction flaws. Government was also tasked with purchasing equipment, even though the former Administration spent over $1 billion to revamp the flood-prone hotel.
Now that they have addressed loopholes in the response mechanism, the Minister said authorities can focus on immunising the population with the large batches of incoming vaccines.
Apart from lacking resources to fight the pandemic, he said they also saw lacking drug supplies and infrastructure – systemic problems that the budget will seek to alleviate.
“We had to start to address this shortage by doing emergency procurement to fill the immediate needs and we are hopeful that with this year’s allocation of more than $7 billion, we will stabilise the situation…While a lot of progress has been made, it would require a lot of work to permanently correct the deficiencies and damage done by the APNU/AFC,” the National Assembly heard.
Moving forward, the PPP/C is working to strengthen a series of areas in healthcare delivery. This starts with the maternity infrastructure by opening new maternity homes and wards.
“A new maternity home will be opened in months at Lethem and we’re also going to improve and open a new maternity hospital at New Amsterdam later this year. We’re also going to build maternity waiting homes at Kato and Moruca,” the Minister shared.
The Pediatric Cardiology Programme will also be restarted in offering specialised care to babies. This initiative was used to treat over 100 infants until it was dismantled by the coalition. Presently, over 130 children are waiting for surgery.
“In this year’s budget, we have allocated money to buy all the necessary equipment and to pay the surgeons to come back to Guyana, so that we can restart the pediatric cardiology programme.”
A whopping $53.5 billion will be injected into the sector this year. The entire allotment is divided into $1.8 billion for purchasing of critical medical equipment, $322 million for the procurement of medical equipment, $35 million to enhance the emergency medical services, $900 million for HIV treatment and testing, $70 million for essential medication for psychiatric patients among others.
In terms of infrastructure, $2.8 billion has been budgeted for the expansion and modernisation of health infrastructure. Within this, the continued implementation of the $860 million SMART Hospital initiative will result in the operationalisation of the upgraded Leonora Hospital, and the commissioning of the upgraded Diamond Diagnostic Centre and Mabaruma Hospital in 2021, while works will advance on the Lethem and Paramakatoi Hospitals.
Government will also endeavour to complete the construction of a polyclinic at Festival City and the remodelling of the Skeldon Hospital at a combined cost of $88.3 million to now cater for surgical interventions including an operating room, recovery room and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Other areas that will benefit from capital investments focused on providing surgical interventions are Aishalton and Kumaka District Hospitals, with over $100 million earmarked for these projects. (G8)