COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force this week

A NATIONAL Task Force responsible for delivering vaccines for COVID-19 disease will be announced this week, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony.

During a COVID-19 update on Monday, the minister said that this body will be tasked with ensuring that Guyana is adequately prepared for the eventual introduction of the vaccine; and to ensure that this mandate is fulfilled, several people have been employed.

“What we are looking for is a specific type of expertise as it covers vaccines, cold chain (storage), logistics and management,” said the minister, adding that this expertise is sought by individuals in the public and private sectors. .

Previously, the minister had pointed out that this task force will include government agencies, the private sector, members of the Joint Services and hopefully, specialist immunologists.

The introduction of vaccines for COVID-19 will require careful logistical planning and management, but also specialized resource capacity. Cold storage facilities are already known.

The Ministry of Health has announced proposals for private contractors to procure and install refrigerators and vaccine carriers, which must be completed before Guyana receives its first quota of COVID-19 vaccines next year.

It was reported that Dr. Anthony stressed that all cold storage spaces should already have been created to match the specific temperature of whatever vaccine the COVAX facility chooses by mid-January.

US drug company Moderna had announced that its vaccine, the mRNA-1273 from Biotech, could be stored in a standard refrigerator with temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius (36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 days. This vaccine was only introduced on Monday, in the US

Meanwhile, the other vaccine already in circulation, the Pfizer vaccine, must be stored at very cold temperatures of minus 70 to 80 degrees. Measures are in place to ensure that the country’s cold storage chain could accommodate either.

Beyond physical demands, human capacity needs to be built. The Ministry of Health has also begun to develop a training manual that would be used to train healthcare workers on how to administer a vaccine.

Guyana’s first set of COVID-19 vaccines will be secured at no cost, as the country has signed up to the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at speeding up the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and then provide them in a guaranteed speed, in a fair and just way to those countries who need them. COVAX currently has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines.

Although there is a fee to join COVAX, Guyana’s costs are met through GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which coordinates COVAX, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

This initial set of vaccines that Guyana receives for free is expected to cover 20 percent of the population, and is likely to be accepted by healthcare workers and elderly people with comorbidities (other underlying medical conditions) first.