Govt leading national civil society campaign to boost vaccination against Covid –President Ali
-considering incentives currently implemented by other countries
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali says his Government is spearheading a national campaign to encourage more vaccination against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity, in the wake of vaccine hesitancy.
In his address to the media at a press briefing on Wednesday at State House, the President said the Government has engaged political parties, the religious community, and the private sector to encourage and motivate persons to take the vaccines.
“While the Government is taking every step to have everyone vaccinated, it is the responsibility of every citizen, though not mandatory, to understand the importance of vaccination.”
President Ali noted that thevaccines have a shelf life and the cost for storage and transportation are enormous. Therefore, he said individuals must capitalise on the opportunity to get immunised against Covid now, as the vaccines won’t be available forever.
“My Government has launched an exceptionally aggressive vaccination programme to achieve herd immunity in the shortest possible timeframe. It has not been easy. As you are aware, sourcing the vaccines is a global challenge, and we have met it head-on.
We have made every resource available to get us all vaccinated. To date, our comprehensive response to covid has cost us as a nation billions of dollars,” the President said.
On Saturday, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony said the Government has tied up arrangements to ensure that every adult in Guyana can be vaccinated, and he encouraged influencers to do their part.
Better enforcement of guidelines
Meanwhile, the President said as the disease ravages sections of the Region and as the mutations challenge the Covid response, the Government will focus on stronger enforcement of the COVID-19 preventative measures.
“Regardless of whether you have been vaccinated or not, we must all follow the COVID-19 guidelines. We had hoped that common sense would have prevailed in following the established guidelines, but unfortunately it hasn’t,” he said.
Further, in response to questions posed about consideration being given to adjusting the curfew hours and other COVID-19 related legislation, the President said a lockdown would be ineffective if citizens flout the other guidelines.
In this regard, he said arresting errant persons would also be counterproductive as it would entail crowding them into prisons.
However, President Ali said the Government would charge businessowners who encourage breaches at their establishments.
The President emphasised that the scientific community has endorsed vaccination as the only way out of the pandemic, and pointed to measures being taken in other countries to incentivise vaccination.
“To get back to normalcy, the introduction of a mass vaccination passport is being contemplated by many countries. In fact, we have already seen countries lower entry requirements for vaccinated persons. We here in Guyana, will soon have to consider this option.”
The President explained that the vaccination passport is becoming an essential document for the conduct of business, and for travelling to some countries.
“Some countries are now even moving towards removing the mask policy if you have both vaccinations, and some countries are even contemplating a two-tier system.
Those who are vaccinated fully and go for public services, you go through the line, [while] those who are not vaccinated, you have to go through some testing before you get to that service,” he said.
Dr. Ali underscored that there is immense need to consider these options because the Government cannot risk putting the collective health of the nation at risk, but must consider options to quicken Guyana’s recovery from the pandemic.
“The irresponsibility of some is costing us because we now have to put more resources on the pandemic when we could have used those resources either on the public education and information aspect and in mainstream healthcare,” he said.
Vaccine equity imperative for developing countries
In addition to the national response, the President noted the Government’s advocacy internationally for the equitable distribution of vaccines. Guyana’s leaders had called on developed countries to work toward facilitating the provision of more vaccines for developing countries. Noting that COVAX would not provide the required number of vaccines to achieve herd immunity soon, Guyana resorted to other methods, purchasing more than US$5 million to purchase vaccines.
“We took the lead from the very inception to fight for the evenness or the equity in the distribution of the vaccine because we knew that would have posed the greatest difficulty.
And CARICOM even called for a global alliance, a global discussion. We wrote the United Nations. We wrote our development partners, not on behalf of CARICOM alone, on behalf of all developing countries, small island states,” the President said.
Dr. Ali said CARICOM did an exceptional job at raising awareness about inequity in the distribution of vaccines. He also noted that although every country in the Region is grappling with its own unique challenges in its pandemic response, the Region would achieve better results once it works together to manage the pandemic.