COVID vaccine response ‘tremendously good’ – Min Anthony

─ no adverse effects recorded

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Frank Anthony is pleased with the response from health workers towards the COVID-19 immunisation programme.

Last Thursday, healthcare workers from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention at Liliendaal, received their first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, COVISHIELD. To date, more than 500 workers have been vaccinated.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony

During today’s daily COVID-19 update, Minister Anthony said “the uptake has been tremendously good.

“A lot of people came forward who wanted the vaccine… I’m extremely pleased that a lot of the senior doctors at the Georgetown Public Hospital actually took the vaccine.”

Those who took the vaccine included GPHC Chief Executive Officer, Brigadier (ret’d) George Lewis, Director of Medical and Professional Services, Dr. Fawcett Jeffery, Head of Cardiology, Dr. Mahendra Carpen, Head of Paediatrics, Surgery and Medicine, Dr. Marisa Seepersaud, Head of the Institute of Health Science Education, Dr. Alexandra Harvey and Head of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tracey Bovell.

Minister Anthony said Guyana is expected to receive thousands of additional doses of vaccines to ensure all healthcare professionals are vaccinated before rolling out the immunisation campaign to the wider population.

The decision was taken to inoculate all healthcare workers first as they are frequently exposed to the disease.

Side effects

While mild side effects after receiving vaccines are normal, Minister Anthony says there are no reports of adverse effects from those persons who have been inoculated.

He explained that after receiving the vaccine, a person may experience some discomfort at the site of the injection with possible irritation. Some persons may also experience headaches and fatigue. Symptoms will differ, but will generally go away within 24 hours.

“All of these are expected as it shows that your body is reacting to the vaccine, which means that your immune system is working and starting to produce the antibodies that are necessary to fight off COVID, so that’s great,” he said.

Minister Anthony stated that there are rare cases where persons experience an anaphylactic reaction, meaning that the person develops an allergy to something in the vaccine.

A health worker administering the COVID-19 vaccine

“These types of reactions generally would occur within 15 to 20 minutes after the vaccine would have been administered. That is why when we are finished, we keep the person for at least 15 to 20 minutes under medical observation. Once everything is okay, we allow them to go,” he said.  

A national committee has also been set up to conduct pharmacovigilance. This means the committee will be monitoring for any adverse effects that might occur in people who take the vaccine.

Vaccine education

Prior to the roll out of the immunisation campaign, the Ministry started an education drive on the vaccine. Minister Anthony said that a lot of time has been spent explaining the types of vaccines available and how they work.

“The team that is working to do the immunisation, they are well schooled in all the different things relating to the vaccine. As part of the immunisation process, there is a very strong education component, so anyone who comes to get their vaccine will first have to go through several minutes of getting the right information pertaining to the vaccine.”

Brochures with additional information are also provided. These outline possible side effects, the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety along with the criteria for eligibility for taking the vaccine.

Once a person is deemed eligible for the vaccine, the health personnel administering the vaccine will again remind the candidate about the side effects.

Persons are also reminded to return for their second dose between eight and twelve weeks after they have received their first shot.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.