The Irfaan Ali-led Government is determined to vaccinate everyone living in Guyana who are eighteen years old and older. The Government is in an aggressive pursuit of vaccines. Although developing countries have had a difficult time getting access to vaccines, Guyana has not allowed the difficult terrain to stop it from exploring every possibility to obtain vaccines for the citizens and those living in Guyana. The Guyana Government has engaged COVAX countries such as India, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the US, the EU, manufacturers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca. Among developing countries, Guyana has been among those that have succeeded in obtaining a reasonable number of vaccines. The Government is not giving up, and has sustained an aggressive pursuit, led by the President and the Vice President themselves. The Government has committed resources towards procuring as many vaccines as possible.
Thirty-five thousand (35,000) Guyanese have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Thus far, Guyana has received 122,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This is enough for 61,000 first doses being dispensed. By next week, we should complete vaccinating more than 60,000 Guyanese with first doses. In addition, persons are already receiving their second doses. In the next few days, Guyana would receive 25,000 additional doses of vaccines, and over the weekend, Guyana is expecting another 175,000 doses to arrive. Guyana is presently also working on receiving another 80,000 doses by end of April or early May. We are hopeful of procuring a substantial number of vaccines before the end of June, which would permit full vaccination of the population.
This is a massive exercise, but the health workers have shown that they are capable of administering the target of 10,000 doses of vaccination per day. Although the Health Ministry has restricted the number of sites, the daily average has been more than 2,000 per day. The highest per day vaccination so far has been 3,100. But the highest number of sites in the ten regions is 34. In the next few days, the MOH will ramp up that number to 110 sites, and mobile teams around the country. The Ministry of Health would maintain a minimum of ten centres per region from next week. The Ministry of Health has provided senior health workers (Nurse/Medex) from health centres to lead each of the ten centres in each region. The Senior Health Visitor in each region is coordinating the vaccination staff. The Regional Health Officers are overseeing the rolling out of the campaign in each region. In addition to the permanent staff in the health sector, the Ministry of Health has already embarked on hiring retired nurses/medexes to provide support for the vaccination centres.
The Ministry of Health is working with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to organise local government bodies to assist the Ministry of Health with community mobilisation. The Ministry of Health is also working with faith-based leaders and NGOs to help mobilise the population. The faith-based leaders have taken a leadership role in ensuring that citizens are being mobilised for their vaccines. This is in contrast with a number of faith-based leaders who have gone rogue and have been publicly discouraging people from taking their vaccines.
The Chief-of-Staff of the GDF is already mobilising a team consisting of 400 personnel from the GDF to assist in this aggressive rolling out, and has already made arrangements for the deployment of those officers to the Ministry of Health. In addition, the Medical Corps of the GDF will support the Ministry of Health at various vaccination centres. This past week, many of the GDF staff were trained to play a role among the vaccination teams.
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the University of Guyana are working together to mobilise university students – particularly medical students, nursing students and pharmacy students – to support this initiative. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs is working with the village leaders and the Toshaos Council to mobilise indigenous populations. Other Ministries, such as Agriculture and Natural Resources, are helping to mobilise persons for vaccination.
Guyanese ought to be proud their Government has stepped forward in making resources available. Importantly, the leaders, led by the President and the Vice President, are out front in the effort to procure vaccines and supplies necessary for the full vaccination of the entire population. There is a reason why Guyana has won the gold medal for vaccination many times in the past. It is because Guyana has one of the best vaccination programmes in the world. Guyanese public health nurses administer 255,000 doses of vaccines per year. In the last 20 years, these nurses have administered more than five million doses of vaccine. There must be no doubt – the Guyanese public health nurses can vaccinate every Guyanese against COVID-19 this year. The only barrier is if they can access enough vaccines. The Guyana Government is trying to ensure the public health nurses have access to the vaccines they need.