Belize receives more than 33,000 COVID-19 vaccines


The country’s Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) is well underway with its vaccination process which started at the beginning of the month. This process is being carried out in phases and according to the latest data from the Ministry, more than 20,000 persons have been vaccinated under the initial phases of the activity, from 1A to 2C. Those have included frontline healthcare workers; members of the National Assembly and Judiciary; persons over the age of 60; persons with chronic illnesses such as cancer and HIV; persons receiving dialysis; members of the media; teachers; police, customs, and immigration officers; and workers within the tourism sector. The vaccination exercise had to be carried out on this fashion given the limited AstraZeneca vaccines which were available. In the first instance, 1,000 doses of the 2-dose were donated to our country by the Government and people of Barbados. Subsequently, another 25,000 doses were given to us on behalf of the Government and people of India. Then, there was a lull until Wednesday, March 31, 2021 when some 33,000 doses of the vaccine were received by MOHW.
This third supply came from COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX. COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator which is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO). In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Revolving Fund is the recognized procurement agent for COVAX and it is exactly through PAHO, WHO, the European Union (EU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that Belize’s third batch was procured.
As many as 33,600 doses of vaccines arrived at the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) via an AmeriJet flight on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 and were received by a host of persons including our Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Natalia Beer from the Ministry, and other representatives from key stakeholders. This is just the first batch of the vaccine to be received through COVAX because according to the MOHW, we are to receive a total of 238,800 doses of the vaccines by the first two quarters of 2021. Dr. Beer explained that because of the low production of the vaccines, countries are only allowed to request vaccination for between 10% and 30% of their population.
The Ministry continues to encourage those above 18 who can be vaccinated to do so. The arrival of these vaccines comes at an integral time when our COVID-19 active cases are fairly low, 38 according to the Ministry’s latest data, and as we enter into the Easter season. These vaccines represent an important line of defense against this disease but it does not prevent spread of the vaccine nor catching it but it greatly decreases the chance of COVID-19 being severe.