There have been protests against what has been deemed a forceful stance on COVID-19 vaccinations but the Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony is calling on leaders to put aside the politics and instead, work towards saving lives.
Guyana is currently experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections. Worst yet, there has also been a significant increase in the number of people dying after they have been infected with COVID-19. In fact, for the month of September so far, 62 people have died.
Dr. Anthony has labelled this a serious public health issue and has attributed the uptake in COVID-19 infections and deaths to the emergence and spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. This is a deadlier form of the virus, that is more infectious and transmissible, and it is wreaking havoc in many countries.
And, with the threat of this variant ever-present, the Health Minister lamented, “… if people don’t get vaccinated, unfortunately, a lot of people are going to end up in the hospital and some of them are going to die.”
In addition to this public health threat, there has also been the emergence of protests against the government’s vaccination requirements. As per the gazetted COVID-19 emergency measures, people are required to be vaccinated or present the results of a PCR COVID-19 test before they can enter public buildings and some private buildings. Vaccination is, however, not mandatory.
The protestors have labelled these requirements as coercive. Additionally, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) have asked the High Court to declare all the protocols and guidelines issued as unlawful.
Like many of his cabinet colleagues and even President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Dr. Anthony said that it was hypocritical and irresponsible that the protests are being led by people who are vaccinated.
“I think it’s imperative that all the different bodies whether it is civil society, trade unions, even the political parties, come together and encourage people to get vaccinated and don’t just pay lip service to this thing,” the Minister said in an invited comment to the Guyana News Agency on Monday.
He emphasised that if many people are infected, that would lead to people becoming hospitalised after experiencing the more severe symptoms of the virus. And, of those who are hospitalised, a number of patients might die.
But, the minister emphasised that the COVID-19 vaccines would help to protect people from becoming seriously ill.
According to statistics, provided by the Head of Medical Services and Cardiology at the Georgetown Public Hospital, Dr. Mahenda Carpen, 81 per cent of the patients who died in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in August were not vaccinated; 16 per cent of those patients had only received one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.
And, three per cent of those people who died were fully vaccinated. The Guyana News Agency reported that the patients who were fully vaccinated but died had other severe, life-threatening diseases that contributed to their death.
Cognisant of this, the Health Minister said: “Those who want to play politics and create political mischief should really think again because they are endangering people’s lives, they are putting people at risk, they are creating confusion and hesitancy and all of this doesn’t augur well from the ordinary person who might be blindly following them.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony said that the local health authorities have still been seeing a good vaccination uptake. On average, he said that the health ministry has been administering 2,375 first doses daily while about 2,000 people receive their second doses. Additionally, some 1,900 children are receiving the Pfizer vaccines daily.
He, however, highlighted that many people are taking their first dose but not returning for their second dose of the vaccines. As such, he made a fervent appeal for people to return and take their second doses.