Team of professionals to handle rollout of COVID-19 vaccines here

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With two COVID-19 vaccines proven to be over 90% effective, the Government of Guyana is putting systems in place to roll out its immunisation programme.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said the Ministry will be naming a team of professionals next week to prepare storage facilities and put other systems in place to administer the vaccine when it is approved.

“We have people from ministries, from the private sector, some technical experts, who will be working with us so by next week, you will hear the team task force which will basically be set up to look at vaccines,” Dr Anthony said during his daily COVID-19 interview.

The team is being set up in keeping with obligations to the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) to ensure that certain timelines are met.

GAVI is assisting 92 countries with raising funds to subsidise the vaccines so the cost per dose can be very minimal. Dr Anthony, along with representatives from 91 other countries, on Thursday morning met with GAVI to discuss the readiness of a vaccine to combat the pandemic.

“…what we looked at is putting in place the governance structure on how countries who are participating in this can also get their voices heard,” Dr Anthony said.

He added that GAVI specified a number of things which have to be completed within 2020.

“These include doing preparations in terms of rolling out of the vaccines when they become available, looking at our cold chain and making those assessments, strengthening the cold chain, training people to administer them.”

Two US companies –Pfizer and Moderna –have announced successful trials for their vaccines.

For them to commercialise the vaccines, the companies will have to present documentation to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking approval.

According to Dr Anthony, the applications are likely to be submitted in the coming days and they “will get what is called an emergency use authorization.”

Following this approval, the companies will proceed to large-scale manufacturing.

The Minister previously stated that the Moderna vaccine is more feasible for developing countries since they can be stored for up to 30 days in refrigerators and freezers which are used in Guyanese homes.

On the other hand, the Pfizer vaccine is in need of an “ultra-cold chain” for it to be stored at -800 degrees; the government has not ruled out this and is looking at ways it can import the storage facilities for each administrative region, if necessary.

Pfizer has already reported that it can complete 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020 and another set early next year.

But Dr Anthony has ruled out Guyana getting any of the vaccines before the end of the year.

“For us, it is going to be challenging to get any of those vaccines within this year because as those vaccines are produced, I think the bigger countries will certainly take them very quickly,” he noted.

Guyana will receive vaccines to take care of three per cent of its population followed by another tranche, which equates to 17 per cent of its population.

The first three per cent, the Minister had 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 immunisation 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.

Guyana has so far confirmed 4,976 positive cases and 143 deaths since patient zero on March 11, 2020.

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