Safe school reopening: Encourage vaccination among adolescents – Health Minister tells parents

In order to allow for the safe reopening of schools, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony is advising parents to take interest in ensuring that children are vaccinated against the deadly virus.
With the detection of new variants, he said, vaccination is the solution to being protected against infections.
In the vaccination campaign, 764,898 doses have been administered. This number represents 440,072 first doses and 314,356 second doses. Booster doses account for 10,470.
For the 12-to-17 age cohort, vaccine uptake stands at 30,171 first doses, or 41.4 per cent; with 21,771 second doses, or 21.4 per cent.
Recently, Education Minister Priya Manickchand said institutions cannot be keep closed much longer, since learners are affected with the closure. The Health Minister noted that the infrastructure is available for children to get vaccinated, but parents need to give consent.
“We can have all the infrastructure there, but if the parents show no interest and are not encouraging their children to be vaccinated, then it’s going to be difficult to vaccinate those children. Persons within the 12-to-17 age group require parental consent, so if the parents are not giving consent, then we cannot vaccinate,” Dr Anthony outlined.
If schools are reopened with low vaccination statistics, he cautioned, this can put students at risk.
“If we want to open our schools safely, then we all have to be responsible. We have to ensure that our child that is of school age come and get the vaccine, so that they can come to school and be in a relatively safe environment. If they’re unvaccinated, they’re putting themselves at risk; and with Omicron, you can easily get infected. The only sure way of protecting yourself would be through vaccination”, the Health Minister contends.
Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) has achieved 100 per cent first-dose coverage for children. There are some regions in which the vaccine uptake is extremely low, such as Regions Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).
Speaking on the general immunisation efforts, Dr Anthony reiterated that second-dose coverage needs to be parallel with the first-dose uptake; and the unvaccinated should take their jabs.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of vaccinating people. There’s still a lot of people who are eligible for first dose that did not show up, and we want to encourage them to come out and get first dose. There’s still lots of people who took the first dose but did not come back for a second dose. These persons are all partially vaccinated, and they wouldn’t get the benefits of full vaccination,” Dr Anthony has said.
Currently, Guyana is using the Pfizer jab to inoculate its adolescent population (12 to 17) along with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. The double-dose vaccine has an efficacy of about 95 per cent, and is one of two vaccines approved for children by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Then public schools across Guyana were partially reopened for face-to-face learning in September, with individualised plans that see a limited number of children being allowed to attend classes at a time.
Additionally, school hours have been drastically reduced, in some cases to two-to-three-hour sessions.
Officials have, however, continued to mull the reopening of schools for complete classroom activity as the only way to curb the continued learning loss which the country is experiencing.
The only safe way to reopen schools is through vaccination of both teachers and students. (G12)