Frontline workers are our first priority for Covid vaccines

– Govt aims to inoculate entire adult population by year end
– Vice President Jagdeo 

Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo says the Government has prioritised the safety of its frontline medical workers by ensuring that they were first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as they are most frequently exposed to the disease.

Speaking with the media on Thursday, after 18th Sitting of the National Assembly, Dr. Jagdeo said while persons may have expected to see Ministers inoculated first, the safety of health workers are paramount.

Vice President, Hon. Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo

“We are caught in a dilemma, a lot of people want to see us take the vaccine as a confidence boosting measure because many people still have doubts about taking the vaccine, that’s one part, then we are also concerned that there may be people who think that politicians want to take for themselves the first set of vaccines that come into the country. So, we have opted right now to allow health personnel to take the first batch.”

The Vice President said the Cabinet members were not reluctant to take the vaccines, with some already willing to do so.

“I would take it anytime, now or when the larger batch comes in. We just believe that maybe, we should allow the healthcare professionals to get the first bite of the cherry, so that’s how we are approaching it thus far.” 

Additionally, immigrants seeking access to the vaccine would not be overlooked or excluded the Vice President said.

“First of all, if the immigrants are here and they fall into the category, there is no way of not administering the vaccine to them too because they live in our society legally and they can also be the carrier of the virus. So, you have to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated who lives here,” Dr. Jagdeo said.

The Vice President said while the matter of cost may be a concern, the first batch of vaccines Guyana received from Barbados, the AstraZeneca COVISHIELD, was free of cost. Additionally, the quota that it would receive through the COVAX mechanism is also free. Guyana is also to benefit from a donation of 20,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from the Government of China.

Ministry of Health, Hon. Dr Frank Anthony interacts with Pharmacist, Ms. Brinnet Bernarai after she received her vaccine.

At the same time, the Government had long decided not to pass the costs of the vaccines on to the population, particularly since the nation is still grappling with the economic hardships of the pandemic.

“The first set came to us gratis, we got it for free. We have made it clear that no Guyanese would have to pay, Government will fund it. There will be free vaccines for everyone, private sector, private sector employees, every Guyanese including the immigrants who are here.”    

Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony says the Government has developed a deployment plan for the vaccines, starting with healthcare workers who are on the frontline.

“We want to cover all healthcare workers and other frontline workers and of course, then we move onto persons who are at greater risk such as the persons with comorbidities and the elderly and then we go to the rest of the population. It’s a phased approach,” he said.

Dr. Anthony also assured everyone that with Government procuring more than the 20 per cent vaccines that we are would be receiving through the COVAX mechanism, there will be enough vaccines in the system to give to most of the adults in the country.

“Our objective by the end of the year, is to achieve herd immunity and therefore, as much as possible, we need most of the adults to be immunised, so that’s our objective.”

Guyana received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, a gift from the Government and people of Barbados. Of the 3,000 AstraZeneca vaccines, 100 doses went to the CARICOM Secretariat and 1,400 will go to frontline workers.

The country is awaiting a batch of 104,000 vaccines through the COVAX mechanism. The Government is also brokering an arrangement for another 149,000 under a CARICOM-African Union purchase agreement.