COVAX working to distribute vaccines in 2nd quarter – Dr Anthony

Global procurement mechanism for the COVID-19 vaccines, COVAX has given some positive news that two billion doses will finally be procured for distribution. Now that efforts have succeeded, they are working to have it distributed by the second quarter of 2021.
Relaying this information was Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony during Tuesday’s coronavirus update. Since last year, Guyana was listed among the countries eligible for coverage under COVAX, a body of organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), that will ensure there is equal access to and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines when it becomes available on the market.
“Our main discussions on vaccine have been centred on working with COVAX and we continue to do that…We have had some good news through that mechanism so COVAX has reported that they now have deals in place to acquire two billion doses of vaccines. They are working to have these vaccines out by the second quarter of this year,” he notified.
Presently, the regulatory approval for the vaccines determines when it will be rolled out. The World Health Organisation has only approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use listing but there are several others under consideration – which have been given emergency use authorisation in other countries. It is expected that Moderna and AstraZeneca will be given the green light in the next two months.
Sputnik 5, which was approved for use in Russia, is also on the waiting list along with two Chinese-developed vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac. The earliest approval will come in March.
According to the Minister, this is an indication that there will be more than one option to choose from. Since COVAX can only supply 20 per cent of the vaccines required to immunise the population in 2021, Guyana will also explore other partners to access more vaccines.

“There are several options that are available and we’re still working with COVAX to ensure that we can have access to the vaccine. We know of countries that have been doing bilateral deals outside of COVAX and that’s because this year, COVAX would only be able to give countries that are participating, 20 per cent of the vaccine to cover the population. That is not going to be enough to achieve herd immunity and a number of countries are looking at other options,” Dr Anthony insisted.

Priority groups
When a vaccine becomes available in Guyana, the first set will be used to immunise frontline healthcare workers. Anthony had indicated that after the first consignment, more vaccines will be procured. Next in line is the older population and persons suffering from comorbidities – regarded as the high-risk category. This represents another 17 per cent of the total vaccines required.
He had shared that Guyana will need to immunise approximately 80 per cent of its population to safely protect and emerge from the pandemic. This is termed “herd immunity” whereby there is indirect protection from an infectious disease after a percentage of a population has become immune to an infection.
“We will have to continue working and trying to get more vaccines because many of the experts believe that for us to exit the pandemic, we will have to achieve something that is called herd immunity. To get to herd immunity, some of the experts are projecting that about 80 per cent of our population would need to be immunised. We would still need to get some more vaccines to reach that level,” the Minister was quoted as saying a few weeks ago.

Nevertheless, the country’s cold storage facilities and human resources are being developed in the meanwhile. Regional facilities are being expanded and rehabilitated. Orders were placed last year for additional freezers since the vaccines received from COVAX could require storage at varying temperatures.
Some 12 CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) Member States have signed agreements with Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance – namely Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos to access vaccines when it becomes available. CARPHA is assisting seven of these member states with the down payment.
Guyana is among a list of countries, including Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Saint Lucia, as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines that automatically qualify to access the Vaccine Alliance. (G12)