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…some 22,000 health workers to receive vaccines in coming weeks
By Lisa Hamilton
The first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Guyana on Thursday at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to Pharmacist, Brinnet Bernarai who works at the hospital.
It marks the first of a number of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, donated by Barbados, which will be administered over the next few days to health workers at the frontline of the COVID-19 fight.
Before the vaccine was administered to Bernarai she was told of the possible side effects which include pain and redness at the point of vaccination.
Speaking with the media subsequently, she said that she was nervous at first but then the feeling went after she realised that the vaccination was not different from other vaccinations. It is estimated that about 22,000 health workers will initially receive vaccines.
A national group has been established to monitor the possible side effects from the vaccine which could be reactogenic or adverse, the latter more serious.
According to the Health Ministry, Guyana has not received any reports of adverse side effects as a result of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Outside the GPHC, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony described the moment as “historic” noting that it would help Guyana to slow and perhaps halt the spread of the coronavirus in its territory.
“This might look like a very simple moment but it marks – I would say – the beginning of the turnaround of this pandemic in Guyana. Our intention is to ensure that we reach herd immunity which means that, over the next couple of months, we would be able to secure enough vaccines so most of the adult population in Guyana would be able to get those vaccines,” he said.
The Health Minister thanked the Government of Barbados and its Prime Minister Mia Mottley for making the donation to Guyana of 3,000 doses. Later in February, he said that Guyana can expect additional doses from other parts of the world.
Speaking further with the media, he explained that the GPHC was chosen as the site to commence administration of the vaccine because it is the location of some of the most severe cases of the virus. As such, the staff there is more at risk of contracting COVID-19.
He called on the media to do its part by helping to dispel some of the misconceptions and fears surrounding the vaccine for the greater good.
Dr. Anthony said: “There are persons who are totally against vaccines and that’s not going to be helpful in this fight against the pandemic. Around the world this is a very scarce commodity and therefore, once we’re getting it, we want to ensure that we can get in into the arms of people as quickly as possible.”
The Ministry of Health had rolled out a ‘hesitancy survey’ to determine the fears and misconceptions Guyanese may have about taking COVID-19 vaccines.
The Health Minister said that, based on the results received, the ministry will be conducting focus group sessions to help dispel fears. This will be coupled with the Ministry’s Risk Communication Strategy.
Meanwhile, Director of Primary Health Care Services, Ernestine Hamilton explained that the health care workers which will be responsible for administering the vaccine to others in Guyana will be taken from the GPHC, one of the main reason initial doses of the virus are going to health workers.
“[From] the small group of vaccines that have been made available to us, we have embarked on ensuring that the healthcare workers, who are more at risk, receive their vaccines. So, the group of persons who will receive vaccines over the next few days are those persons who are in direct contact with patients who have COVID-19 or patients who are suspected to have COVID-19,” she explained.
The joint forces, frontline workers, the elderly and persons with comorbidities also form part of the priority list. The aim is to ensure that at least 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated to ensure herd immunity.
Speaking too, GPHC Director of Medical and Professional Services, Dr Fawcett Jeffrey thanked the hospital staff for putting themselves at risk to transacting COVID-19 before there were vaccines available.
He said that the GPHC Management is pleased that the health workers can now be vaccinated which will give them the protection they need to fight the virus.