AS of Tuesday last, some 201,347 persons or 41 per cent of the Guyanese adult population, persons 18 years old and above, have received their first dose of one of the three (Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sputnik V)locally distributed vaccines, as Guyana continues on along the path to herd immunity.
Additionally, some 69,486 second doses were also administered, resulting in 14.3 per cent of the Guyanese adult population being fully vaccinated against the deadly novel coronavirus.
Those figures were disclosed by Adviser to the Ministry of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday.
Dr. Ramsammy said that based on the available figures, Guyana is “far ahead” of other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in the drive to fully vaccinate their citizens.
“When you look across the Caribbean, we are far ahead of any CARICOM country, in terms of the number of vaccines that have been administered. At the moment, we have administered more than 270,833 doses, of which over 201,000 are first doses and close to 70,000 are second doses; no country has reached those numbers,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
According to information by Reuters’ COVID-19 Global Tracker, Trinidad and Tobago has administered some 95,850 first and second doses of COVID vaccines, a representation of 3.4 per cent of their population, while Jamaica has administered at least 177,883 doses, a representation of 3 per cent of their population. Dr. Ramsammy used these two countries for reference.
He further said that based on statistics, comparing the different age groups which the vaccines were gradually made available to, the senior population or persons age 60 and above have been leading, with close to 70 per cent of that age range receiving their first dose of one of the vaccines.
Some 37.9 per cent of persons between the ages of 40 and 59 years old have received their first dose, while some 33.1 per cent of persons among the youth population, which consists of persons between the ages of 18 and 39, have received their first dose.
However, while at first glance it might appear that the younger population has been hesitant to take the ‘jab’, the low vaccination rates may be due to the ministry’s initial approach during its rollout campaign, having made the vaccines first available to senior citizens and then gradually to other age groups.
On a regional level, based on the ten administrative regions in Guyana, Region Four (Demerara – Mahaica) has been leading the vaccination campaign with some 85,588 first doses being administered, followed by Region Six (East Berbice – Corentyne) where some 35,140 first doses have been administered.
Region 10 (Upper Demerara – Berbice) has recorded the lowest number of first doses administered, with 3,165. Dr. Ramsammy said that based on the adult population of the regions, Region Six is leading with 49.2 per cent of the population 18 years and older receiving a first dose, followed by Region Five (Mahaica – Berbice) with 45.8 per cent; Region One (Barima – Waini) with 45.2 per cent; and Region Four with 42.2. Only 12.1 per cent of the adult population in Region 10 has received their first dose.
NO SHORTAGE OF VACCINES
Amid concerns that there has been a shortage of vaccines in the country, with many persons highlighting that they have been turned away from vaccination sites because of no vaccines being available, Dr. Ramsammy affirmed that the government has already secured enough vaccines for 480,000 persons; this is enough to cover the entire adult population of Guyana.
He said that so far, there are enough doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines for 80,000 persons.
In the case of those vaccines, most of the first doses have already been administered, and the second doses are “stored away” and “guaranteed” for those persons who received either of those vaccines.
He noted that some 800,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V have been procured to cover some 400,000 adults.
Of that figure, some 205,000 have already arrived in the country, consisting of some 149,000 first doses, of which some 20,000 are currently in stock.
Dr. Ramsammy noted that Guyana is at a stage where most of the 59,000 second doses of the Sputnik V vaccines, which have arrived in the country, are already administered.
However, he related that more vaccines are destined for Guyana, and the country is expecting a shipment “any time soon.”
Although the second doses of the Sputnik V vaccine were administered, Dr. Ramsammy assured persons that there should be no fear or worry that they are late for their ‘jab’, as the Ministry of Health has strategically organised and thought ahead of this dilemma.
“The vaccine can be administered any time between four weeks and twelve weeks, so they are due now at the fourth week, but you can wait up to another eight weeks before you receive the second dose. But we are expecting the second dose soon, so no one would have to wait for another eight weeks,” he said.
Dr. Ramsammy noted that the government has taken several factors into consideration when determining the number of vaccines to procure, including the logistics of getting the vaccines to Guyana, as well as the response rate of persons taking the vaccine, as the shots do expire.
The vaccines also require special storage arrangements.
“These vaccines require special storage; it’s not an ordinary freezer. If you bring all 800,000, each dose is in a vial; one, it will occupy a lot of space … for every freezer we used we have to have a second one empty in case one break down. That’s really why we’re bringing it in batches and that’s why we catered for this extra time,” he said.
Dr. Ramsammy informed the Guyana Chronicle that thus far there have not been any expired vaccines, and no vaccine has been wasted.
“In every country you would have wasting, especially when you’re using low temperature vaccine, because if you take it in a remote area, where you don’t have the storage, you’re going to lose vaccines. So, you have that in every country, but in our country, we have been able to ensure we don’t have any kind of significant wastage,” he related.
He also said that the vaccines are to be thawed once removed from the special freezer before it is administered.
“So, if we say 50 people will come and we thaw out 50 and only 30 people come it means we will waste 20, so this is why it becomes difficult. So far that has not happened to us,” he said.
The Adviser to the Ministry of Health said that the fact that Guyana was able to secure such a large number of vaccines when other countries have not been able to do so, proves that the government has been “very aggressive” in its efforts to tackle the disease.