The United States (US) has donated 146,250 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to Guyana, which will be used to immunise children aged 12 to 18 years from the disease COVID-19.
These vaccines arrived on Tuesday afternoon at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) at Timehri, on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD).
According to Mark Cullinane, the Charge d’ Affaires of the U.S Embassy Security Office, the donation of vaccines to Guyana is part of a wider donation of five million vaccines being made to the Caribbean region.
Specifically for Guyana, he highlighted, “This donation today represents the US efforts to maintain solidarity with Guyana to get over the scourge of COVID-19.”
Not only are these vaccines being used as part of Guyana’s efforts to fight COVID-19, but they will be used specifically to immunise children between the ages of 12 to 18, ahead of the reopening of schools on September 6.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines being discharged at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport
And, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand says that the donation allows the local authorities to vaccinate more than 70,000 children, who would have otherwise been unable to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
This Pfizer vaccine is administered in two doses, at least three weeks apart. And, it has been granted emergency use authorisation for use in children above the age of 12. While responding to questions from members of the media at the airport, the Education Minister explained that efforts are being made to ensure that children can safely return to school when the new academic year begins.
But the reopening will be done on a case-by-case basis and is contingent upon schools’ readiness, including the adequate social distancing measures that can be facilitated and the general cleanliness of the school environment. Importantly, the number of vaccinated teachers within the schools is another determining factor.
Parents are required to give their consent for their children to be vaccinated and so far, the education minister said that about 4,000 parents have already granted their consent.
L-R: Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand; Mark Cullinane, the Charge d’ Affaires of the U.S Embassy Security Office and Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony at the CJIA to receive the Pfizer vaccine
In total, she said that there are about 58,000 students in secondary schools across Guyana and most of these students fall within the 12 to 18 age category. Additionally, there are some children in Grade Six who may be 12 and would be eligible for the vaccines, while there are children in technical institutions who would also be eligible.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony related that more than 4,000 children have been infected with COVID-19 thus far. But, with the newer strain of the virus – the Delta variant- children are among those who are becoming severely infected.
With this Delta variant emerging as the dominant form of COVID-19, the minister emphasised, “These vaccines are coming at a very critical time.”
As it relates to the rollout of these Pfizer vaccines, however, the minister said that health workers have been receiving some training on administering these specific vaccines.
Because these health workers have already commenced some training, he said that these vaccines will be distributed soon. Dr. Anthony also assured that the ministry has the adequate cold storage capacity to store these vaccines and to ensure that they are distributed to children across Guyana, even in the hinterland regions.