Presidents strive for end to vaccine hesitancy in Guyana, Suriname

In wrapping up a successful State visit this week, the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname, Dr Irfaan Ali and Chandrikapersad Santokhi, have implored with citizens from both countries to end their hesitancy and get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
President Santokhi and a high-level delegation from Suriname ended a four-day visit to Guyana on Friday. During a joint press conference on Thursday, the two leaders disclosed that among the decisions taken during discussions is collaboration to address vaccine hesitancy in both Guyana and Suriname.
“We both agree that the issue of vaccination and addressing the hesitancy in relation to vaccination is critical for us and we’re going to work on a shared strategy in promoting the full vaccination of our population,” President Ali said during his remarks.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

Similar sentiments were expressed by his Surinamese counterpart. President Santokhi reiterated the importance of vaccination against the deadly virus to the health of the neighbouring countries. As such, he urged citizens to follow the respective vaccination programmes in Guyana and Suriname.
“As regard the COVID pandemic… we should urge our both nation, our both people to take the vaccine and follow the vaccination strategy of both nations. That’s the only way to keep our nation to keep our community safe,” the Surinamese leader stressed.
Guyana rolled out its vaccination campaign back in February using AstraZeneca, Russian-manufactured Sputnik V and the Chinese-made Sinopharm jabs. Government is currently in the process of acquiring the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the United States as well as Pfizer, which will be used to inoculate children from 12 years up in order to prepare them for the possible reopening of schools.

President Chandrikapersad Santokhi

According to recent figures, some 58.1 per cent of the adult population has received their first dose of the vaccine, which is approximately 298,248 persons. Meanwhile, fully immunised persons in the country stand at some 152,997, representing 29.8 per cent of the population who are 18 years and older.
However, despite Government aggressively rolling out the vaccination exercise in the various regions across the country in order to achieve heard immunity, there are some regions that are significantly lagging.
In fact, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony expressed concern over the low vaccination rate in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) during Friday’s COVID-19 update.
“Region 10 has the lowest numbers for first dose vaccines,” he stated.
According to Dr Anthony, only about 5693 first doses have been administered in the Upper Demerara-Berbice region, which accounts for about 20.7 per cent of its adult population. However, he added that the second dose vaccination is much lower.
“We just have about 2588 persons who would have been fully vaccinated in Linden. This is just about 9.4 per cent of those who were vaccinated, got their first dose… [and] came back and got their second dose. So, as you can see this is really low,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister went on to note that Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) is also lagging with its vaccination rate. Only 38 per cent of the region’s population has taken the first dose of the vaccine, while 23 per cent took both doses, Dr Anthony reported.
Nevertheless, in order to encourage a higher vaccination rate across the nation, the Guyana Government updated the gazetted COVID-19 measures for the month of August to include vaccination requirements to access certain services. This includes social locations such as restaurants, bars and cinemas as well as most Government offices and public transportation operators.
In light of these new measures, several private establishments and State buildings have instituted a proof of vaccination requirement or a negative PCR test for employees and for persons accessing services.
However, there has been widespread resistance from certain quarters about these new guidelines including the APNU/AFC Opposition which had staged a series of anti-vaccination protests. Moreover, last week residents in Linden staged a protest after several unvaccinated health workers were prevented from entering the Linden Hospital Complex.
Government subsequently issued a two-week grace period to allow for healthcare and transportation operators to get immunised against the virus.
Suriname is currently experiencing a similar resistance from its population toward the COVID-19 vaccine.
Only Friday evening, Suriname received 140,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from the United States.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that as of August 13, 2021, a total of 267,959 vaccine doses have been administered in Suriname. (G8)