Health Ministry to focus on Covid-19 booster, HPV vaccination drive

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, while commending the work of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), is urging medical practitioners to do more to ensure persons take the COVID-19 booster shots.

Addressing the Quarterly Maternal and Child Health Expanded Programme of Immunisation on Wednesday, the health minister noted the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony addressing the Quarterly MCH/EPI Meeting.

“We have seen over the last two days, cases have started going up gradually, so we have moved from where we were at four and five cases to now having as of yesterday, over the last 24 hours we have had 42 new cases and today, we have about 52 new cases. We moved from having 0 persons in the hospital to now having 6 persons in the hospital, so what that is telling us, that omicron has not disappeared, that covid has not gone away,” Dr Anthony said.

So far, approximately 86 percent of the adult population has taken at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while approximately 66 percent has taken both doses.

The minister is hoping that by June, persons taking the second dose will be at 70 percent which is a target set by the World Health Organisation.

While it has been significantly proven that booster doses reduce the risk or severe illness, thus far only 12.3 percent of the adult population has taken the booster doses, while vaccination in the adolescent population remains stable.

Guyana has generally been doing well in its general immunisation programme throughout the years.

“We have been doing extremely well, with this vaccination programme, but with Covid-we had various challenges and I think despite of the challenges we have still been able to maintain good numbers,” Dr. Anthony said.

Photo of the meeting.

Importantly, Dr. Anthony has been given the go ahead by the Cabinet to have the vaccination legislation updated, as it was last updated in 1974 when the country was only vaccinating for six diseases.  There are now 16 diseases.

“We need to amend the law, and many of the other vaccines that we have been giving, while people have been accepting them, it is not really in the law,” Dr. Anthony said.

One of the challenges hampering the vaccination programme is the unsuccessful attempts to rollout certain vaccines like the HPV jab, which is critical in preventing cervical cancer, the second leading cancer among women in Guyana.

“When we had the first launch of it, we didn’t really get a lot of uptake and that was because there were lots of misinformation pertaining to HPV. We want to make sure that we roll this out this year, because just like what we have done with covid, there are going to be people who are skeptical, there are going to be people who are misguided, there are going to be people who are spreading misinformation, but despite all of that, you understand the science,” Minister Anthony told the gathering.

The minister said that there will be an aggressive campaign to roll out the HPV vaccine in all regions this year.

“If we want to eradicate cervical cancer from this country, we have to start now, and I am confident that if we have a very robust programme of vaccination, then in a couple of years’ time we will start seeing the impact,” Dr. Anthony said.

COVID-19 Notice: Due to the pandemic some consular services will be conducted by registered mail until further notice. Learn more