Kaieteur News – It is not clear how many of the more than 50 persons who died from COVID-19 related causes over the past month, were vaccinated. Since it takes about three weeks for fair immunity to develop after the first jab, we can safely say that quite a few of those deaths would have been saved if those persons were vaccinated, assuming that the majority of the persons who have died recently were not vaccinated.
Of the more than 533,000 persons who have perished in the United States as at March 31, almost 95 percent were 65 years or older. This is more or less consistent with what is happening in the United Kingdom in relation to deaths.
In Guyana, the Ministry of Health is treating data about the age of victims as a state secret. While each death is reported and the age of the victim provided, there has been no aggregated breakdown of the age of the victims, information which can be routinely obtained in the United States. But it has been suggested that Guyana’s high-risk group are those persons aged 55 years plus.
The Guyana government initially targeted persons over 65 years. But it appears that there was massive hesitancy and therefore within two weeks, persons over 50 were invited to have the vaccine. It appears again that there still was massive hesitancy and the vaccines are now being administered to persons 40 plus.
Given global trends, it would make better sense for the government to try to vaccinate as many over 55 persons before extending to lower age groups. But considering the vaccine hesitancy, the government did the next best thing and now offers the vaccine to persons 40 plus.
People are still dying and the majority those who have died recently have been persons above the age of 55 years of age, even though a few younger persons have died. A greater effort needs to be made to mobilize more of the high risk persons, persons older than 55 years, to administer the vaccine. Unless this is done, the deaths are likely to increase.
There are simply not enough vaccines to inoculate all those persons between the ages of 40 and 50 years old. There are more than 100,000 Guyanese who are aged between 40 and 50 years. And it should be remembered that the government has to retain enough vaccines to give persons a second dose. And while the reported number of vaccinations is increasing, this has to do with the fact that the age limit has been lowered to 40 years.
The government, however, has no choice but to lower the age range. If the deaths fall and the number of infections continue to increase, the government may have no choice but to extend the vaccination to persons above the age of 24. This would however have to be contingent on there being adequate supplies of the vaccines, something which cannot be assured.
The government has said that it is in talks with Johnson and Johnson. If a deal materialises quickly, it would be a game change for Guyana, because this is a single dose vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy is for now the main stumbling block to curbing deaths; poor enforcement would appear to be the main obstacle to containing the spread of the virus in Guyana.
The government therefore cannot afford to be working only on one front. It has to intensify its efforts on three levels – vaccination, enforcement of social restrictions and testing.
While vaccines are short, test kits are not. Since January infections have surged. And it is about time that the government undertakes random testing of the population in order to determine just how widespread are infections.
The numbers do raise questions about the effectiveness of government’s testing. As more tests are being done, more cases are emerging. So it needs to be determined just what percentage of the population is exposed to the virus and this can only be done via random sample testing as was done in New York state in the early days of the pandemic. At present one in every 10 persons in the New York has tested positive. This is a staggeringly high rate.
The United States has the highest number of deaths and infections in the world. Adjusted for testing, Guyana has a higher infection rate than the United States. And when it comes to deaths, Guyana’s per capita deaths are closing in on the United States. We are in a much worse state than most people believe.
(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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