The Government of Guyana has announced that a shipment of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in Guyana shortly. The vaccine has been approved in the United States of America to be used by children aged 12 to 17 and has been administered there and in other countries.
With the need for schools to be reopened safely, the administration of this vaccine is critical in Guyana. As such, on Thursday the Ministry of Education met with over 50 headteachers and senior teachers primarily from the Secondary sector to discuss the best way to move forward.
The meeting was productive, the Ministry said, and the principals are all on board to support the successful implementation of this programme. Similar engagements will continue to occur.
During the recent engagements with the principals, the Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said that consent forms will be made available to parents for them to fill out and submit which will serve as proof of the permission given to have their child vaccinated. Parents and guardians will also be required to be present when the vaccine is administered.
The principals made several suggestions during Thursday’s meeting. Among them, it was recommended that parents can uplift the forms at the schools. Regarding the hinterland schools, it was suggested that the Toshao of the various villages is engaged to facilitate the effective distribution and collection of the forms.
These forms have already been given to the Departments of Education in the 11 Education Districts (Regions one to 10 and Georgetown). Also, the form is available on the Ministry of Education’s website at: https://education.gov.gy/covid-vaccine
Additionally, parents and guardians can fill out the form and submit it electronically by using this link: https://forms.office.com/r/jGKHNM5mzk
If parents choose to print the form but are unable to submit it they can take a photograph of the completed form and submit using WhatsApp number: 652 – 9144.
It was also suggested that the Ministry uses the updated class registers that were used for the cash grant distribution to drive the process forward.
The Ministry of Education said it is also aware that some Guyanese teenagers had traveled to the United States to receive the vaccine since it is not available in Guyana yet.
Over the past few weeks during the distribution of the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant, parents at the various distribution centers were engaged on the matter and were also given a flyer with information regarding the vaccine so that when the time comes for an informed decision to be made, they have all the facts.
However, the Ministry’s information campaign will not stop there as several initiatives will be rolled out to ensure parents and students have access to the relevant information and have their questions answered.
Telephone numbers have been circulated to teachers allowing them to contact three doctors attached to the Ministry of Health via WhatsApp with any question or concern they may have related to COVID-19 vaccination.
During the cash grant distribution in Region Four, vaccination stations were established at the various distribution centers to provide parents as well as teachers an opportunity to be vaccinated if they chose to. Out of that exercise, a total of 1019 doses were administered in the Region Four Education District and 976 were administered in the Georgetown Education District giving a total of 1,995 doses administered at our distribution centers for the two districts.
The Ministry of Education considers this a successful initiative and is confident that more Guyanese will choose to become vaccinated as we work together to protect ourselves and those we care deeply about.
The reopening of schools to face-to-face engagement hinges heavily on the national vaccination programme. More of the adult population needs to be vaccinated to protect themselves and children, especially those who are below the age of 12 for whom no vaccine has been approved as yet. We urge all Guyanese to see the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and to consider the consequences that will come from not being vaccinated.
The Education sector has been hit hard due to the pandemic and having to close schools as a response. However, the longer the school doors are closed the more our students will suffer from learning loss and greater is the likelihood of an increase in school dropouts.