Kaieteur News – A vaccine rollout has to be carefully planned. It has to be done in a manner, which would not overwhelm the health services, in the event (improbable as it is) that there are side effects, which can force hospitalization or medical attention.
No vaccine is 100 percent free of side effects. You do not wish a situation in which thousands of persons suddenly develop nausea, fevers, or aches at the same time and have to seek relief at health clinics. This is hardly likely but it is something, which has to be factored into the rollout of the vaccine.
It is not clear at this time whether the World Health Organization has developed protocols for the rollout of the immunization process. However, the basics, has been known for some time while the vaccine was in development.
The vaccine does not cure the coronavirus. Nor is it believed to stop vaccinated persons from spreading the virus. The vaccine helps someone to develop an immunity, which can prevent severe illness and eventually death. It is expected also to be a major boost to stemming the spread through herd immunity in which large numbers of persons within a population are immunized against the virus.
There are however, a number of challenges, which the local Ministry of Health should have been addressing. The first of these is the question of numbers.
Guyana is only expected to receive initially, assistance in obtaining vaccines for about 20 percent of the population or about 150,000 persons. With a 90 percent effective rate, this would still not be sufficient to impact significantly on the spread of the disease. It is estimated, that half the population, or an additional 200,000 persons, would need to be vaccinated in order to develop herd immunity.
The government, therefore, will face a challenge in obtaining funds for the additional 200,000 doses since these vaccines are not cheap. They come with a price tag.
By February 2021, China should be in a position to supply significant quantities of its main COVID-19 vaccine. Guyana should be looking towards China, which has the technical capability to produce a safe vaccine and the financial reach to help poor countries like Guyana. Once China comes on board, Guyana should be able to satisfy the demand for vaccines for 50 percent of the population.
The second challenge is cost. It is not known how long the immunization will last. It could be a year; it could be longer. Therefore, one year down the line, there may be need again for persons to be revaccinated. This time the government will have to foot the entirety of the cost.
The third challenge has to do with resistance to the vaccination. It will defeat the purpose of mass immunization if some persons refuse to be vaccinated. In addition, Guyana has a great many ignoramuses who are being duped by all manner of conspiracy theories about this vaccine.
Already persons are saying they are not taking the vaccine. They are not only putting themselves at risk but also they are defeating the purpose of mass immunization, which is trying to ensure herd immunity.
The fourth challenge is logistics. Guyana is a huge country. The vaccine has to be rolled out carefully, first to high-risk groups and then to communities and neighbourhoods. There has to be a strategic plan developed.
This is where you need epidemiologists. However, the government says it is appointing a medical team. Before that team is appointed, the areas where persons are going to be vaccinated have to be scientifically mapped out. Guyana does not have the skilled personnel to do this.
It is also doubtful whether they can have a numbers of trained persons to administer the vaccines. Not everyone will be vaccinated at the same time but the immunization will have to be spread across all 10 regions of Guyana. This means that in every Region, there will have to be dozens of teams trained and ready to immunize. This will be a huge challenge for the government.
Then the rollout plan has to be designed. Guyana probably has about 5,000 healthcare workers who will have to be first in line. However, not all can be vaccinated at the same time. This would probably take two weeks alone to complete.
Then there are the high-risk persons. This will include those who are over the age of 55 and those with underlying conditions. The government keeps touting the elderly as those over 65 but the statistics are showing that persons from age 55 have a higher chance of developing severe illness.
In addition, the life expectancy of males is 68 years and for females, it is 71. It therefore makes no sense to treat the elderly as persons above 65 since most would be expected to die within a few years in any way. The elderly, for the purposes of the vaccination should be lowered to persons above 55 years.
Some 90,000 persons fit into this category. It means that the vaccines, which Guyana will be receiving at a subsidized cost, in the first instance, should be sufficient to immunize health workers, the elderly and persons with underlying conditions.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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