Guyana’s health minister warns against vaccine hesitancy

GEORGETOWN – Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony on Monday urged Guyanese to get vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also blamed religious leaders and leaders of the Amerindian peoples for vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

“Some of the leaders in the communities, it might be a mixture of the Toshaos or sometimes in other cases you might have other religious leaders who are peddling his type of misinformation.

“They are not doing their communities a good service, they are actually putting their communities at risk and we would really want to encourage them to desist from doing this,” Dr Anthony said as he addressed the daily COVID-19 Update.

He said as a result, the government is planning to place at least two health workers at health centres in all communities.

“Part of the curriculum would be to go into the community, talk about vaccination, the importance of it and give people factual information,” Dr Anthony said, adding that due to the misinformation vaccines have gone to waste.

He told reporters that once the vaccines are removed from cold storage, they have to be fully utilised because ‘once you start doing that, there is no going back, you cannot refreeze it.

“In some cases, we have gone to communities…of 300 and after spending a day or so there, you probably get about four or five people coming forward,” Dr Anthony said.

“These are anti-vaxxers, they don’t believe in the benefits of the vaccine and they have been constantly undermining the message from the Ministry of Health and other health authorities.”

The Health Minister also warned that Guyana, despite removing the country-wide curfew and relaxing several other measures aimed at containing the spread of pandemic, may find it difficult to be fully re-opened unless more people get vaccinated.

“Countries right now that are working to open up their economies are countries where they have had high vaccination rates not just with the two doses but also the booster dose and because of that they are able to open up their economy with very little consequences but we are not there yet because our booster doses the uptake is still relatively low,” he said.

“We can create access; we can make the vaccines available but it is the people to come and get vaccinated this is a two-way process while we are making a lot of efforts with these things to see that special effort from people. So whether it’s the community, community leaders, religious leaders, business leaders everybody they have a role to play to encourage the population to come and get vaccinated,” Dr Anthony said.

Guyana has administered over 430 000 first doses of vaccines, representing 83.9 per cent of the adult population. The authorities said an estimated 395 000 others have now been fully vaccinated and that represents 63 per cent of the population.

In August last year, the vaccine rollout for children aged 12 to 17 began with 45.7 per cent receiving their first dose and 32.9 per cent receiving their second dose.

Last December, the authorities began administering booster doses and so far, 48 669 people have received the third shot. (CMC)

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