Gov’t now ‘leaning’ towards administering first set of COVID-19 vaccine to elderly, persons with comorbidities

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By Isanella Patoir

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony on Wednesday revealed that the government is “leaning towards” administering the first set of COVID-19 vaccines to the elderly population and persons with serious underlying health conditions.

The Minister had initially stated that frontline workers would be the first to receive the vaccine, once it is made available to Guyana.

Guyana will be accessing its COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX –an alliance including the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Guyana will first be receiving vaccines equal to 3% of its population followed by another tranche which will equate to 17% of its population.

But even though COVAX has asked the countries to prioritise healthcare and other frontline workers in the first dosage of the vaccine, the Health Minister noted that the elderly and persons with comorbidities are more at risk.

“They [COVAX] are asking countries to prioritise that 3% more towards frontline workers, which would include healthcare workers and other persons who are engaging the public constantly…in our context, we are leaning towards having the elderly and persons who have comorbidities because these are persons more at risk,” the Health Minister during Wednesday’s daily COVID-19 update.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony

From March to date, Guyana has recorded 151 COVID-19 deaths of which the majority are elderly patients and patients with underlying health conditions.

The Health Minister explained that COVAX has made progress in acquiring the vaccines.

“COVAX now is very clear and they have sent us some documentation which we are filling up and sending it back to them,” the Minister said.

At the same time, the Ministry has commenced preparation for the rollout of the vaccines when it becomes available.

“We have also started work locally, which include looking at our vaccination sites and improving and expanding our cold storage in some cases we have to add new storage rooms and things like that.”

A procurement process is also ongoing for specialised freezers to store the vaccines, while a manual is being developed to train healthcare workers to administer the vaccine.

“Within a couple of weeks, we will be able to bring in people and start doing this training.”

The Health Minister also recently assured that the ministry is working to ensure the country’s cold chain can accommodate any one of the available vaccines — whether it must be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius, minus 20 degrees Celsius or the normal two to eight degrees Celsius.

US drug company Moderna had announced an experimental vaccine against COVID-19, the mRNA-1273 from Biotech, which has shown a 94.5 per cent effectiveness.  This vaccine can be stored in a standard refrigerator with temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 days.

The Pfizer vaccine, which has shown 95 per cent protection against the virus, has to be stored at very cold temperatures of minus 70 t0 80 degrees.

The BBC on Wednesday reported that the UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination.

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