By Vishani Ragobeer
As the rollout of the US-made Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines got underway for children on Thursday, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand says that more than 5,000 children have already been given parental consent to get vaccinated against the deadly virus.
She said this in an invited comment on Thursday afternoon at the St. Stanislaus College in Georgetown where the vaccination of children got underway. A total of 146,250 doses of the US-made Pfizer vaccines were donated to Guyana by the United States and will be used exclusively to vaccinate children aged 12 to 18 years. This vaccination is not mandatory and parents must give their consent.
On Thursday, scores of children, even those who were not scheduled to receive vaccines at the time, turned up at the college to get the jab. And Manickchand was optimistic that even more parents would let their children get the life-saving vaccines.
“Now that people know that this is not an abstract concept, that this is actually going to work (and) that we have vaccines ready to put in your arms, I think you will see a better uptake,” the Education Minister told the News Room.
Ramon Cummings, a fifth-form student of St. Stanislaus College, and Danah Shiwgobin, a second-form student of the school, were the first two Guyanese children to get vaccinated here.
Gabrelle Cummings-Atherley, Cummings’ older sister, said that the boy was the only person in their family who had not been vaccinated as yet, and with the reopening of schools on September 6, they wanted to ensure is protected.
“We believe that this is the best move for us when it comes to Ramon because of course we will be interacting with teachers and fellow students come September when school reopens,” she said.
The boy’s sister later emphasised, “If he needs to be vaccinated to get his education, that is our aim and our goal for him to be educated and if the vaccine is necessary, he will get it.”
Of course, the decision to let Cummings get vaccinated was not made instantly. In fact, Cummings- Atherley said that she was a bit apprehensive before. But, she recognised that this particular vaccine was granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) for children and also that vaccines were proven to reduce the severe effects of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Cummings himself said that online school has been challenging for him over the past year and he was eager to take the vaccines so that he would have a safer return to school
“I am looking forward to returning to school since I am going into fifth form and I am completing my secondary school life,” he explained.
At a ceremony held before the administration of the vaccines, the Education Minister and the Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony both emphasised that these COVID-19 vaccines were crucial, as Guyana continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot afford at this time, when there is an existential threat hanging over our heads with new variants coming to our shores and attacking our people, to be hesitant,” the Education Minister said.
She later added, “We’re no longer talking about getting past the virus so that you can get into schools, we are talking about getting past the virus so that you can live.”