Guyana’s to use USAID $$$ to tackle COVID misinformation

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… Anthony says debunking myths important for population safety

The Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Health, will be working to tackle COVID-19 misinformation with its portion of the US $2.5M donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Eastern Caribbean.

On October 25, it was announced that USAID would be disbursing the “urgent COVID-19 assistance” for The Bahamas, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

It was noted that the assistance will provide further support for the operational costs of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, outreach activities to reduce vaccine hesitancy, and equipment procurement to support the development of COVID-19 vaccine information systems, laboratory detection, and vaccine storage.

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In a recent COVID-19 update, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony said that as Guyana works to vaccinate its adult and child population, more needs to be done to combat the myths being spread that are causing hesitancy.

Without vaccination, he reminded that persons face a higher chance of becoming infected, hospitalized and even dying from COVID.

“Across the Region, people still harbor a lot of myths pertaining to vaccines and, because of that, it has maybe deterred them from going and take the vaccine,” Dr. Anthony said.

“So, these funds would assist the countries in the region to improve their communication with the general population and encouraging them to get vaccinated and understanding the benefits of vaccination…on a daily basis, people are on social media and they receive all kinds of misinformation from social media and they tend to believe these things. So, we have to now come up with a program to come to that.”

The Health Minister said that the monetary assistance comes at a critical time when vaccines are being approved for children and Guyana is working to make these available.

Independent advisers for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11. Of 18 members, 17 voted yes and one abstained.

Minister Anthony said that it is likely that the Caribbean countries to receive the USAID funding will use the same to educate parents, teachers and the general public about the value of vaccination.

He said: “We want to open schools. We want children to go back to school because you would know over the last year there has been a lot of learning loss, meaning that the curriculum has not been adequately covered [or] the material that children ought to cover they have not done so. Many times when they’re supposed to be online studying because they’re not supervised, they’re probably not able to study properly. So, these things have affected how children learn definitely would create a learning loss…we have to get children safely into schools and one way of doing that is really for them to be vaccinated.”

This USAID donation builds on the previous COVID-19 support provided to Caribbean countries. USAID has provided nearly $63 million in COVID-19 assistance to the Caribbean, including nearly $7.45 million specifically to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, since the beginning of the pandemic.

For Guyana thus far, over 379,000 adults or 74 per cent of the adult population have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while over 240,000 have received their second dose or 46.8 percent of the adult population.

Meanwhile, over 27,000 children within the age range recommended or about 37.1 percent of the child population have received a first dose of the vaccine. Over 17,000 children 24.2 percent of children have been fully vaccinated.



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