Fellow Guyanese, I just spoke on one of the issues I wanted to address you on and that is the Venezuela/ Guyana Border issues. I wish now to talk to you on the greatest challenge that faces our world and our own country, it is the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are all by now aware that there are a number of vaccines in the various stages of development and approval, but the world is competing to access these vaccines and each country is in that competition.
We are guided by the World Health Organisation and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and like every other country big and small; our objective is to obtain a vaccine as soon as possible for our people.
In pursuit of this goal, our government is working with multilateral and bilateral partners, and at the same time, directly negotiating with the primary manufacturers of these vaccines to access them for Guyana.
Last year, Guyana joined COVAX and is now eligible to receive vaccines for 20% of our population, which will be free of cost. We expect to receive approximately 3,800 vaccines in February and March which will be assigned immediately to our Frontline health workers, people with comorbidities and our elderly.
We are also working with CARICOM, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU) for a quota of vaccines.
At the bilateral levels, the Government of Guyana has had productive discussions with the Governments of India, the Government of China and the Government of Russia. The Government of China has confirmed that it will be donating 20,000 doses of vaccines to Guyana. Discussions are ongoing and arrangements to acquire vaccines from these countries will be finalised very shortly.
We are also negotiating with the major manufacturers Pfizer, BioNTec, Moderna and AstraZeneca and hope shortly to finalise a supply of vaccines from these manufacturers.
In short, your Government is wholly committed to obtaining vaccines in the shortest possible time utilising every means at our disposal for our people.
While we work to access the vaccines, we are organising to implement their distribution. We are installing and extending the Cold Chain infrastructure for safely storing the vaccines, and personnel are actively in training to get the job done.
I want you to feel confident, indeed, to feel certain, that when the vaccines arrive and we begin to distribute them they will have the full approval of the World Health Organisation and will be safe. I will be the first to demonstrate this by signing on to the vaccination programme.
It is important, however that we understand that as we roll out vaccines, we must still observe and respect all of the precautions and preventative measures to remain safe.
I repeat, wear your masks, wash your hands, keep your distance and stay home, unless it is absolutely necessary to be out.
Fellow Guyanese, I would like to say to you that the issue of the vaccine is one that has engaged policy makers around the world, in different forms.
The question as to who should take the vaccine is one that that will be left entirely up to the population. These vaccines will not be made mandatory although we want to encourage every Guyanese to take the vaccine.
The vaccine is an important part of building immunity, getting to herd immunity that forms a critical component in addressing and fighting the pandemic.
In addition to this, I assure you that all vaccines will be free of cost to the people of Guyana; we are sparing no resources and we are leaving no stone unturned. We are aggressively pursuing every avenue though which we can expeditiously get these vaccines and make them available to the population.