Health Minister welcomes news of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

-Sets up local team to look at storage, rolling out of vaccine program

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Local authorities have welcomed the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine which has proven to be 95% effective and can also be stored for long periods in cold storage already available in Guyana.

The new vaccine was announced by US company Moderna on Monday and adds to growing confidence that vaccines can help end the pandemic.

“That is very hopeful and very optimistic news that you have a vaccine now that we can use with our existing infrastructure,” Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony has stated.

The vaccine was announced on the heels of similar results from Pfizer but the Minister explained that in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the Government will have to invest in refrigerators to store these vaccines at -800.

Moderna scientists used an innovative technique for developing the vaccine so quickly [photo taken from BBC]
However, in his daily COVID-19 update, he said “with the Moderna vaccine is that they’re saying that if you store at -200 you can keep those vaccines for as long as six months and if you have like fridge and freezers that we normally use at home, then we would be able to store the vaccines in those conditions for 30 days which is in keeping with our existing cold-chain that we have.”

The Moderna trial involved 30,000 people in the US with half being given two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart. Persons who would have received the vaccines began creating antibodies. The company says the vaccine is protecting 94.5% of people.

Guyana will be accessing its vaccines through COVAX –an alliance including the World Health Organisation –which aims is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

Dr. Anthony pointed out that Guyana will first be receiving vaccines equal to 3% of its population followed by another tranche which equates to 17% of its population.

The first 3% he said will go to all frontline workers starting with health professionals. The second set will be administered to persons who suffer from diabetes and other underlying conditions since they are more susceptible to becoming critically ill.

The Ministry of Health has a laudable immunization program and as such, it is believed that the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to meet all of the vulnerable population using the same model.

However, the Health Minister pointed out that majority of the current immunization program are implemented in children.

In this case, “it is really an adult population we are looking at and sometimes doing immunization program with an adult population can be very tricky,” he said.

The Government, Dr. Anthony said, is setting up a team of professionals “who are more acquainted with vaccines,” to determine the logistics when it is time to roll out the vaccines and the more suitable methods for storage.

The data from the US companies in the last week have raised hopes that there is a chance to end the pandemic.

So far, COVID-19 has infected over 54M people and killed over 1.3M according to the World Health Organisation.

Guyana has so far confirmed 4,823 positive cases and 139 deaths.

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