Guyana receives 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX

The COVAX facility on Monday delivered 24,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Guyana – the first tranche until 100,800 doses are consigned to support the local vaccination programme.

Advisor to Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy signs to collect the consignment of vaccines on Monday at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, in the presence of representatives from UNICEF, the EU and PAHO/WHO

The doses, manufactured by SK Bioscience of South Korea, arrived at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport after being dispatched by PAHO’s Revolving Fund that was responsible for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the countries of the Americas.
It is the first phase of deliveries for Guyana, with more vaccines expected to arrive successively during 2021. According to the first round of allocations, Guyana is expected to continue receiving doses through May until it reaches 100,800, the amount specified by the global mechanism.
COVAX is a partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In a statement, COVAX noted, “The arrival marks a historic step towards ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.”

The vaccines being offloaded on Monday

Receiving the vaccines was Advisor to the Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who lauded efforts from partners to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to many countries, adding that Guyana’s vaccination campaign will be bolstered.
“This will go a far way to permit Guyana to continue our vaccination rollout…COVAX is working assiduously to stop inequity in COVID-19 vaccination. Guyana is making a commitment to our people that we will spare no efforts and we will invest whatever is necessary that every citizen in our country, every resident in our country including those migrants are vaccinated,” Ramsammy posited.
He added, “We are demonstrating that we are Guyana strong and we are on the road to ensuring that all persons residing within our borders are vaccinated in 2021. We are grateful to COVAX and our partners that have been in the forefront for months, helping to support our supply chain.”
Guyana is included in ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that will be receiving vaccines at no cost through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and is the first AMC country in the Caribbean to receive the vaccines.
PAHO/WHO Representative in Guyana, Dr Luis Codin said this arrival is very reassuring as it indicated that more people will be protected from the deadly virus.
“We will continue to work with the country to support vaccination along with the entire package of known public health and social measures that we know can help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and save lives,” Dr Codin noted.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UN body in Guyana has been working with Government, civil society, and other partners to identify and assist the needs of the population in responding to the health crisis and its socio-economic effects.
UNICEF Representative to Guyana, Nicolas Pron stated, “The arrival of these vaccines and the future deliveries bring hope to families, especially children, who have suffered the consequences of the crisis caused by the pandemic, with profound impacts on education, mental health, protection and food security.”
His sentiments were backed by UN Resident Coordinator for Guyana, Mikiko Tanaka who lauded COVAX as a “hard-won global partnership” to ensure no one is left behind in the path to recovery.
Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Guyana, Dr Fernando Ponz Cantó has committed to ensuring accessibility to vaccines everywhere around the world. In addition, EU Member States will be able to further offer part of their doses to other third countries’ citizens through the EU sharing mechanism, once the level of production within the EU and the overall epidemiological situation allows it.
He further highlighted that ‘’COVAX is an essential vehicle for delivering on international vaccine solidarity and this first delivery is most welcomed as Guyana is forging ahead with vaccinations’’.
The first coronavirus case in Guyana was reported in March 2020. Since then, the country has confirmed over 10,000 cases and 227 deaths as a result of infection. COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20 per cent of the population of each participating country during 2021.
In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 and 2.6 per cent of their population. The only exceptions are Small Island Developing States, which will receive an allocation of vaccines to cover between 16 and 20 per cent of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small quantities of vaccines.
“Until vaccination is widespread among the population, basic public health measures remain the basis of the pandemic response. For public health authorities, this means continuing diagnostic testing, contact tracing, isolation, assisted quarantine, and quality care. And for individuals, it means continuing to practice physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of masks, adequate ventilation of indoor environments, and avoidance of crowded spaces,” the entity said.
The mechanism aims to secure 1.3 billion doses for 92 low and middle-income countries by the end of the year. Vaccine flights have been taking off almost every day and to date, the EU has given over €2.2 billion in contribution – making it the biggest donor to date.
Thus far, Guyana’s vaccination programme has been led by 80,000 vaccines from India, 20,000 Sinopharm doses from China and 3000 through the Barbadian Government. To date, over 31,000 persons have received their first dose.
The country has also purchased 200,000 doses of the Russian-manufactured Sputnik V vaccines. These will arrive in batches of 50,000. President Irfaan Ali on Friday disclosed that the country is buying these jabs to the tune of a whopping US$4 million since Guyana will be paying US$20 per dose for the Russian vaccine but according to the President, Government cannot put a price tag on the health of the citizenry.