- Encourages Guyanese to do dispel misconceptions of its safety
By Vanessa Braithwaite
A US-based Guyanese born cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Deon Vigilance, was among the first set of health workers in the United States to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Health workers in the United States were among the first set of persons to be administered the vaccine, which aims to lower the transmission rate of the novel coronavirus. With a lot of misconceptions circulating about the safety of the vaccine and its effectiveness in providing immunity to the virus, Dr. Vigilance who is the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Mercy Catholic Medical Center at Mercy Fitzgerald Campus in Pennsylvania, and is presently visiting Guyana, said he is aware of the misinformation that is being peddled both on social media and around the country. He is hoping that his message as a medical expert, who took the vaccine as well as did in-depth research on the development process of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, will dispel myths and persons will trust that the vaccine is both safe and effective. “Based on all the studies that I reviewed, all the information I received, the vaccine has been independently reviewed by multiple bodies and is safe with minimal side effects…this is the only way we can get through it,” Dr. Vigilance told INFO 10.
He is so confident that he moved himself up the list to be administered earlier than he was scheduled to take the vaccine. He took a dose of Tylenol, only by choice, before being administered and had encountered zero side effects. “I had no side effect, no discomfort…I took the flu vaccine and the discomfort I had with the COVID vaccine was less,” he recounted.
One of the clinical studies showed that persons allergic to shell fish, would have an allergic reaction from the vaccine, but despite he has an allergy to shell fish, he did not receive any form of reaction.
As local health officials project the arrival of the vaccine in Guyana, early in 2021, Dr. Vigilance believes that more effort needs to be placed on sensitising the public on the effectiveness of the vaccine as well as its safety. He affirmed that this is the only way we can return to a normal society. He believes that efforts should be placed on providing fact-based information by influential persons such as community leaders, politicians, social media influencers, amongst others. These persons he said, should demonstrate that they are willing to take the vaccine and that it is safe for the populace to do so as well. A multi-faceted approach should be taken, he said, to reach as much persons as possible, especially the younger demographic. It is important he said for about 70 per cent of the population to be administered the vaccine before the curve is flattened.
While the vaccine has created some level of hope among citizens, he said this should not allow for complacency and persons should continue adhering to the measures, since the vaccine is not here as yet. “Continue being aware of your surroundings, practise precaution until we get to the point where we can start vaccinating folks, hopefully within the first few months of 2021…..we are likely at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford Astrazeneca are three widely-known vaccines that have been approved. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are already being distributed across the United States.
Guyana’s first set of COVID-19 vaccines will be secured free of cost, since the country has signed up with the COVAX facility, a global initiative geared at accelerating the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and then providing them in a guaranteed rapid, fair and equitable manner to those countries which need them. COVAX currently has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines.
This initial set of vaccines that Guyana will be receiving for free is expected to cover 20 per cent of the population, and health officials related that healthcare workers and elderly persons with multiple illnesses, will be the first set of persons on the tier to be administered. Government is currently strategising how funds will be secured for the vaccine to cover the next 80 per cent of the population.