Vaccinated children support COVID-19 jabs as “the only solution”

…as 213 immunised at vaccine launch
– UNICEF welcomes reopening of schools in Guyana

The Health Ministry on Thursday officially commenced the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 12 and above – a gamechanger as Guyana seeks to navigate through the pandemic.

Student Danah Shiwgobin was the first to receive the COVID-19 jab at the vaccination rollout for children

The launch of the rollout at the St Stanislaus College paved the way for students to get inoculated using the 146,250 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines which arrived in Guyana earlier in the week as a donation from the United States Government.
Danah Shiwgobin, a 12-year-old student of the St Stanislaus, was the first child to receive the vaccine. As she collected her jab and spoke with Guyana Times, the eighth-grader said she was ‘perfectly fine’. Shiwgobin recalled that it was quite a simple process which her parents followed, and then she was cleared to receive her jab.
“It was actually really simple. All you need to do is fill up a form, make sure your parents sign the consent form, and they just ask a few questions, like if you had any transfusions, any sickness or anything. That’s it basically, and then you just go and they will give you the vaccine,” she explained.

Students receiving their first jab

To children who are hesitant to take the vaccine, the student assured, “I will say, ‘Go ahead for it’, because this is actually the only solution right now. For students that haven’t taken it, I’m not sure if they have anything planned for them as to if they’re going to continue online classes and so on.”
Shiwgobin was followed by Ramon Cummings, a business student in his fifth year at the institution. By the end of the exercise, 213 children had received their first jab.
With this leg of Guyana’s vaccine campaign officially launched, a significant number of persons took their shots at the College.
Education Minister Priya Manickchand said it brings the country one step closer to the reopening of schools, preventing further cases of dropout.
“We have seen ourselves right here how much our students have dropped back, and how many have already left the classroom. We commit to making sure that we track each and every student who should’ve been in school, to bring them back into the school, and to make sure that once they come back in, the remediation that is needed to make their presence in the classroom practical and sensible is done,” she asserted.
The Education Minister added that, in a time when there are great threats triggered by deadlier variants and rising cases, persons should only make the logical decision based on science-based evidence to protect themselves.
“We cannot afford – at this time when there is an existential threat hanging over our heads, with new variants coming to our shores and attacking our people – to be hesitant about positions we take; we cannot prevaricate on positions. The science and the medicine is clear…We’re going to come community to community, school to school, drive thru after drive thru to give every child who requires a vaccine a shot in the arm. Once we do that, we will come back to the schools, do that safely, and we’re going to take our country back. COVID shall not win,” Manickchand stressed.
This Pfizer vaccine is only made available for children 12 years and above. Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony informed that Government would await data from current clinical trials to determine whether younger children can be immunised.
“We expect the results of those clinical trials are going to be available at the end of September, and once those clinical trials work as we envisage them to do, then the FDA and United States will most likely grant emergency use authorisation for us to vaccinate children between 11 and five. But we have to wait on that data, then we will be able to open up to this age group,” he clarified.
Meanwhile, United States Deputy Chief of Mission, Mark Cullinane, has assured that the vaccines are safe and effective, as witnessed in the protective barrier it presents in preventing severe illnesses and deaths. The United States, he noted, was concerned about statistics in Guyana, which showed over 4,000 children being infected.
“The United States is troubled by recent statistics that more than 4,000 children under the age of 18 had been tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The recent spike in pediatric cases and breakthrough infections from those who already have the vaccine among the adult population offers a strong indication that the Delta variant and others may be spreading here in Guyana.”
In addition, UNICEF Representative Nicolas Pron said his organisation welcomes the physical reopening of schools in Guyana. “Today is a landmark day for Guyanese students, as the Government launches the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible students, which paves the way for the physical reopening of schools. It is a day of hope and possibility, as many students, some for the first time, will soon step into schools after many months of being at home”, he stated.
Pron further stated that children have a right to education and to the safety and protection that schools provide. “I must commend the Government of Guyana for its efforts in making COVID-19 vaccines available to all eligible residents, and now eligible students. This is an achievement attained by only a few countries. I wish to recognize, too, the efforts of our COVAX partners, including the United States,” he added.
In trails, the double-dose Pfizer component has shown to be around 95 per cent effective, and is one of two vaccines approved for children from the Food and Drug Administration.