Home Letters Guyana must adopt measures that limit disruptions
The Government’s decision to vaccinate all Guyanese adults for the COVID-19 virus has been described as a “A bold move”, and indeed it is. It came three days ahead of a similar decision taken by one of the world’s leaders in the distribution of vaccinations – the USA – and ahead of most countries worldwide. However, it is not without risks, the major one being a shortage of vaccines.
It has been estimated that the country would need another 740,000 vaccines, based on its current supply. This is the worst-case scenario, as this estimate does not take into account that “herd” immunity can be attained without inoculating 100% of the population. But whatever the amount, the country would still need a significant number of vaccines, and would have to deal with the difficulty that presents in sourcing, given the world’s supply.
The challenge is to rapidly bring the population to herd immunity before variants of the virus take hold. This can be accomplished is the unscientific timing of booster vaccinations recommended by pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the vaccines. There was no study done by them to estimate the optimal time lapse between the first and second doses, and current recommendations are without sound basis. The UK, recognising this defect, decided to prioritise the first shot, where recipients are given some protection, over the second shot, which improves that protection.
This policy change has been so effective that the UK now has one of the lowest per capita transmission/death rates from COVID-19 in Europe. For example, 50% of the UK population have received their first dose, compared to only 15% fully vaccinated, and the daily death rate has dropped from a 7-day average of 1,248 three months ago to a low of 25 today. Accordingly, I strongly recommend that the Guyana Government adopt the UK approach to maximise protection of the Guyanese population. Let us delay the second shot, which, except for the Sputnik vaccine, is the same as the first shot, until all those who want to be inoculated receive their first shot.
This approach would also have the effect of muting those “alarmists” who are constantly calling for lockdowns with every passing death. These are the people who feel they are contributing by criticising, always easily done, without offering solutions to the harm caused to lives and livelihoods from such actions. As Guyana cannot run its currency “printing presses” as the US and European Nations have done, to compensate for the harm from restrictions, it must adopt other measures that limit disruptions. It must hasten the pace of vaccinations, require vulnerable populations to self-isolate, and allow healthy people to go about their daily activities while observing precautionary measures such as face coverings, social distancing, and prohibition of large gatherings, primarily to flatten the curve; i.e., to prevent the country’s medical capacity from being overwhelmed.
Most would be asymptomatic, or have mild symptoms, and some would unavoidably die, but that’s societal cost for its preservation.