By Naomi Marshall
In efforts to decrease COVID-19 vaccination refusal and hesitancy within Region 10, regional officials joined with clinical nurse, Patricia Cummings on Wednesday, to address factors influencing the hesitancy. Patricia is an overseas -based Guyanese, the Clinical Nurse Manager at Not-for-Profit Health Corporation in the US, and the nurse who administered the COVID-19 vaccine to US Vice President, Kamla Harris.
“As a health care professional, I have seen the detriment of the virus and it is proving to become more detrimental because of all of the variants that are coming about… It is imperative that you take the precautions and adhere to the information you are given from reliable sources,” Patricia posited.
The discussion panel which was hosted at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), Region 10 on Wednesday, also included Regional Chairman, Deron Adams; Regional Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Harris; Head of the Regional COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Michael Marks; Former Minister within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, and US Registered Nurse, Alfonzo Riley.
In her remarks, Patricia expressed how honoured she is to be able to share her knowledge and help make a difference in her home country.
“In my years of nursing, COVID-19 has been single-handedly the most devastating public health issue that I have dealt with so with the experience that I had back in the US and the knowledge that I have, it gives me great joy to be able to have the opportunity to share that, in hopes of helping whoever is willing to listen and embrace the information,” said the nurse of 16 years.
During his remarks, Regional Chairman, Deron Adams, said that even though efforts are being made to encourage COVID-19 vaccination within the region, he believes that the driving force for vaccination refusal and hesitancy is the spread of misinformation on social media.
“We believe that the driving force for the public panic is as a result of the misinformation that is being peddled on Facebook and persons turning to all of the doctors that would have popped up overnight instead of looking to credible agencies like PAHO/WHO for information,” he stated.
Adams noted that the spread of misinformation such as conspiracy theories and myths have spiked vaccination hesitancy and refusal, however, officials will continue to put steps in place for the dispersal of credible information so that persons can act responsibly.
Echoing the sentiments of the Regional Chairman was Former Minister within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Cummings,who shared that she is sickened by the spread of propaganda relating to the virus because “COVID is real”.
“I am appalled and sad because COVID is real, it is apolitical, it does not know colour, race or anything and persons are dying. So it is very serious and so persons need to follow credible information. There is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other credible services available,” Dr. Karen noted.
Dr. Karen noted that it is time persons stop spreading myths and conspiracy theories about the virus and get vaccinated.
“We want to decrease symptoms of COVID, we want to decrease even the burden of finances of the healthcare system, we want to ensure that there is decreased hospitalizations and of course deaths. So I am appealing to persons to get vaccinated. I have been vaccinated,” Dr. Karen posited.
Giving an overview of Region 10’s COVID-19 statistics was Regional Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Harris.
To date, 5787 persons have been tested in Region 10 and 1509 were confirmed cases of the virus. Currently there are 50 active cases in the region. While 1422 persons have recovered from the virus, 43 persons have died.
According to Dr. Harris, the infection rate of the population is very high but the vaccination rate is very low.
Dr. Harris highlighted that while over 26,000 residents of Region 10 are capable of getting vaccinated, only 15.7 percent of that target population have received their first dose. Meanwhile, just eight percent is fully vaccinated.
“So you can see, compared to the other regions, Region 10 is way behind. We have Region One for example is over 60 percent and Region 2 and other regions are above 50 percent. The only regions below 50 is regions 10 and 8. This means that in Region 10, there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Dr. Harris noted.
Meanwhile, the discussion panel was also Live on Facebook and gave residents the opportunity to ask questions about the vaccines and have those questions answered by the health care professionals present on the panel.
In addressing speculations surrounding the vaccines, Nurse Patricia said information regarding the vaccines are fluid and ever evolving. However, she is positive that the vaccines are safe to use.
In setting the record straight, she noted that the vaccines do not offer 100 percent prevention from contracting the virus but they do act as buffers against the virus, preventing fatal or severe cases from occurring.
“Nothing is 100 percent guaranteed and the vaccine does not offer 100 percent prevention. What it does offer is a buffer so that if you do contract the virus, your illness is not as severe and to the extent of fatality,” she stated.
Vaccines available in Region 10 are the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sputnik V. Persons interested in getting vaccinated can visit their closest health centre or look out for portable vaccination sites in their area.