Frontline health workers to get COVID-19 vaccines first – Health Minister

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony on Monday announced that the first set of COVID-19 vaccines acquired by Guyana will be used to immunise frontline healthcare workers.
He shared this position during the COVID-19 update, noting that the first batch is expected in 2021. This is approximately three per cent of the vaccines needed to immunise the population.
Guyana has been identified as one of 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. Some 20 per cent of Guyana’s vaccines will be distributed through this mechanism.
“We are expecting that sometime next year, we are getting the first tranche of vaccines, which is three per cent and we’ll make that available to our frontline health workers,” the Minister said on Monday.
Dr Anthony 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 is another 17 per cent of the vaccines required.
“At the initial stages, not everybody will be able to access the vaccine. It would only go to a limited set of persons, frontline workers. Subsequently, we will get some more vaccines, which will account for another 17 per cent or so. That, we intend to give it to older persons and persons with comorbidities because we deem them at higher risk.”
He 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 shared.
A few days ago, Dr Anthony has disclosed that Guyana has already commenced making submissions to COVAX as part of arrangements to secure COVID-19 vaccines.
The United Kingdom and the United States have already administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, according to international news reports.
The vaccine, which had undergone a gauntlet of clinical trials and is said to be 95 per cent effective against the coronavirus, is a two-dose injection.
WHO, UNICEF, Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance) and other partners are currently working together to help prepare countries to be ready to introduce the COVID-19 vaccines, which it said is likely to become available for distribution in early to mid-2021.
WHO said adaptable guidance, tools, trainings, and advocacy materials are being developed to support countries in their preparations.
At Guyana’s end, work has commenced to prepare Guyana for vaccines, as the National Vaccine Taskforce has been established to lead this process.
Storage facilities across the country and cold storage units are currently being procured and retrofitted to ensure that Guyana is well prepared when the vaccine becomes accessible. (G12)