Last Updated on Thursday, 26 August 2021, 17:34 by Denis Chabrol
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is to be taken to schools and communities to target only children between 12 and 18 years old to prevent them from getting seriously ill or dying from the virus, the Health and Education Ministers announced on Thursday.
“When we come out to a school, we would really like to see that all the students from that school would have got the consent from their parents so that we can vaccinate the entire school and when they vaccinate the entire school, you can come back and you’ll have that school being safe for learning and that’s our intention,” said Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony.
Just over 146,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were donated by the United States government.
The Health Minister appealed for teamwork among doctors, teachers, parents and community leaders to reduce the impact of COVID-19 especially with the possible presence of the Delta variant that has has been responsible for more hospitalisations and deaths. “The adults in our homes must get vaccinated because if we are protected then chances of infection are reduced,” he added.
Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Guyana, Mark Cullinane said his country is “troubled by the recent statistics that more than 4,000 children under the age of 18 have been tested positive for COVID-19. “The recent spike in pediatric cases and breakthrough infections among the adult population offers a strong indication that the Delta variant may be spreading in Guyana,” he added.
Health Minister Anthony and Education Minister Priya Manickchand disclosed plans for mass inoculation of children across Guyana at the official launch of the adolescent vaccination programme where 15-year old Ramon Cummings and Danah Shiwgobin got the first jabs. He credited children with demonstrating “commonsense and bravery” by turning out to take the jab.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand said the vaccines would be taken directly to community before doctors and nurses return to schools. “We are saying that we are going to come community to community, school to school, drive-thru after drive-thru to give every child who requires this vaccine a shot in the arm and once we do that, we will come back into the schools and we will do that safely and we are going to take our country back, COVID shall not win,” she said.
Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nicolas Pron welcomed the start of the vaccination of school-age children from 11 years and older, saying that would pave the way for the reopening of schools after more than one year. “And it is important that children return to school. Children have a right to education and to the safety and protection that schools provide,” he said.
Except in the most extreme cases, Mr Pron said the risks to children of being out of school are greater than the risks of being in school. He said school closures impact on students’ learning, health and well-being at critical developmental stages, with profound repercussions for each child, their family and the economy. “There is a risk that with prolonged closure of schools, many of these children will never catch up,” he added.
Mr. Pron said that with risk mitigation measures in place, schools can be safer environments for children than being out-of-school. The latest evidence still shows schools do not drive the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
The UNICEF official noted that School closures have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable children who are far less likely to have access to remote learning and more likely to be exposed to violence, abuse, neglect, and other risks. “Their connections with teachers and friends are important and healthy attachments these children have. The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to return,” he also said.
Latest statistics show that 306,906 persons or 59.9 percent of Guyana’s adult population have received a first dose of a vaccine , and 158,557 persons or 30.9 percent of adults have received their second dose vaccine. The Health Minister highlighted that Guyana has a good history of persons taking vaccines for several diseases.