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Tune in to our Live Press Conference this morning for The Official Launch of Belize's Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout and First Vaccination Exercise.

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Ministry of Health & Wellness' Official Launch of Belize's COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

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3 Frontliners Are First To Get Jab

Belize took a giant leap in the fight against COVID as the first citizens were vaccinated today. Three healthcare workers led the charge and received their first dose, confidently heading back into society knowing that they are safer than they were only a few minutes before.

The vaccinations happened at a Ministry of Health Press Conference in Belize City this morning where the media witnessed the process firsthand. Courtney Menzies has a recap of this historical event.

Hon. Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness
"Today marks a very important milestone in this this fight against Covid."

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"This country is indebted to all the frontline workers so I want to tell them on behalf of this government and behalf of the people of Belize, thank you so much for the work that you have done."

And that gratitude was demonstrated today when 3 healthcare workers made history today as the first Belizeans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Nurse Casilda Brown and Dr Eric Bradley, both from the COVID 19 Unit, along with public health specialist Dr Marcelo Coyi, received their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine today, live in front of the entire country.

And this is just the start, as Minister of Health, Michel Chebat, explained that more vaccines are on their way.

Hon Michel Chebat, Minister of Health
"It has been a challenge to obtain these vaccines but I must repeat that I am extremely happy to announce the arrival of this first amount of vaccine for our people. Furthermore, we have now gotten confirmation from the COVAX facility that we have been allocated our first batch of vaccines which is 100,800 doses. These will be in country by the end of the first quarter of this year. This means that with the first thousand doses we received from Barbados we will be able to vaccinate 1000 of our frontline health care workers with their first dose, and when we receive our first allocation from COVAX we will be able to administer the second dose to those thousand frontline healthcare workers."

The Prime Minister estimated that over 60,000 Belizeans will be able to get vaccinated in the upcoming months.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"We have the teachers as the first group in the second category and from the numbers we are getting it seems we would be able to get the teachers vaccinated rather quickly since we're getting 100,800 vaccines from the COVAX facility. We got 1,000 from Barbados. We just got an announcement that India has now said that they're sending to Belize, 25,000 vaccines and it should be here by Saturday so when you add all of those numbers you are looking at probably over 60,000 people who are going to get vaccinated immediately with what we have coming to Belize."

And included in that first amount are healthcare workers, persons ages 60 and over, and those with special conditions. In phase two, there are teachers, police officers, members of the judiciary, customs and immigration, and those in the tourism sector. Phase three includes BDF, Coast Guard and Fire Service, those with co-morbidities, Red Cross and utility workers. Phase four is all other public servants and transportation workers while phase 5 are those ages 18-59 years old.

The PM said that once herd immunity is obtained, it will be one step closer to normalcy.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"I encourage everybody, encourage your family, encourage your friends, especially our elderly to take this vaccine, it is for their own good, for their own protection, we need to get Belize working once again. We've been learning how to live with COVID-19 but until we can get to what you call herd immunity, we can be able to move more freely and to be able to get the economy going."

And for those who are unsure of the safety of the vaccines, Lydia Thurton from the National Immunization Advisory Group explained why they are necessary while Dr Natalia Beer from MOHW spoke about the common side effects.

Lydia Thurton, Chair, National Immunization Advisory Group
"The key message is that vaccines are safe, to date over 241 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered across 103 countries the purpose of the vaccine is the help individuals develop antibodies again sars-covi-2, to provide some level of protection to those who cannot receive the vaccine at this time, to reduce the spread of vaccines in our communities, reduce the death rate associated with COVID 19 and of course to reduce the burden on our healthcare system."

Dr Natalia Beer, Technical Advisor, Maternal and Child Health, MOHW
"No COVID 19 related hospital admissions occurred in persons vaccinated and this is coming out of the different reports from the different trial phases for the vaccine. The side effects are common like with other vaccines, redness and pain on the site of injection and there are also some flu like symptoms but this last no more than two days."

And while it is a step in the right direction, it is certainly not cheap, but Dr Beer explained where the country is getting the finances to procure the vaccines.

Dr. Natalia Beer, Technical Advisor, Maternal and Child Health, MOHW
"It's about 4 million US dollars and if you all recall in the previous press conference and presentations that we have done publicly, there are reformulated corporations that we are working with, the IDB, and that will cover the first half of the vaccine that will be 58% of the total population. And definitely we are looking at the avenue to secure the rest of the vaccines that we need to procure."

That avenue is called begging or borrowing:

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"There's only two ways that we can address the issue of getting the vaccines, one is by donations and the second part is by borrowing money and so that's what we're doing at this time. I wrote a letter to Prime Minister Moody on the 5th of February, asking for a larger donation and what they have done they said that very quickly they can give us 25,000 and we hope that we would be able to get more, in the not too distant future. So we will be trying to get some more donations where we can,, but we've been talking to the IDB we've been talking to CABEI, these lending agencies that would be able to lend us the money to be able to pay for these vaccines."

According to Dr Beer, there are 242,907 adults eligible to take the vaccine in Belize.

The vaccine has not been approved for persons under 18.

PM's Will Pass On Vaccine For Now, Says Antibodies High

And while healthcare workers were the first to get the jab in Belize, in other countries it has been the head of government or the head of state.

But, Belize's Head of Government - who has gotten and recovered from COVID - says he will put other, more deserving persons in front of him:

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"As prime minister when my turn comes I will get vaccinated, but I prefer others to go before me. I was just mentioning to Minister Chebat just on Saturday I to an antigen test and it showed that I have my antibodies are very high. So it would be best somebody takes my turn, because I don't think I need it at this time."

Members of the National Assembly and the Judiciary will receive vaccinations in phase two of the vaccine rollout.

What If a Teacher Says No?

And while we would expect that all 45 parliamentarians would get it without hesitation to set an example, there are four thousand plus teachers countrywide - and what if some, or many of them refuse the vaccination? They are in group one - a high priority, and key to the drive to re - open schools safely. The Prime Minister did mince his words when talking about this possibility today:

"Would that teacher be asked to resign or to be remove from the system, what happens?"

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"No, I don't think the teacher would be ask to resign, but then that teacher needs to be fully conscious if they decide not to take that vaccine. But then that should not prevent that teacher to teach because of the vaccine. They would have to go teach as far as I am concern. We need to get the children back to school."

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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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Belize Vaccination Rollout Plan

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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Today, Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021 the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceno announced the donation of 25,000 vaccines from India. A previous donation from the Government of Barbados of 1000 vaccines was also received a week prior. The Belize Ministry of Health and Wellness has already commenced vaccinations starting with health care workers, persons 60 or over, and persons with chronic health conditions.

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