The Health Ministry carries hopes that at least 95% of the targeted number of children will have received one dose of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine by the end of the school year in June.

After receiving a contribution of 124,800 units of Pfizer pediatric vaccinations from the Slovenian Government, the health and Wellness Ministry will launch its COVID-19 vaccination program for children aged 5-11 on Monday, May 30.

Having the expectation of the first shipment of those vaccines is to arrive in the country today, May 26, the vaccines are now likely to arrive this Saturday. The first shipment According to Dr. Natalia Beer, who is Technical Advisor for Maternal and Child Health in the Health and Wellness Ministry would give enough doses in the vaccination drive for approximately 85% of the targeted numbers, that is just over 73,000 children throughout the nation.

Dr. Beer joined by KHMH pediatrician Dr. Cecilio Eck, who is currently recovering from an existing attack of COVID-19 has spoken with the local press on the Department of Health’s expectations for the campaign. She quoted that the program so far has had complete backing from the Education sector, with whom the Ministry of Health has collaborated extensively since school-aged children were first vaccinated.

This campaign will be based on two different plans of action: school-based vaccination and usage of selected vaccination sites. Dr. Eck stated the advantage of the first plan which is visiting the location of centers for children, like schools.

“We have a captive market with the kids…

Having a captive audience with every kid in Belize between the ages of 5 and 11 or at least the majority of them are enrolled in schools, is a positive sign for this campaign, he expressed, voicing optimism about the campaign’s prospects.

According to Dr. Eck, Belize’s routine vaccination rates were near 98 percent before the COVID-19 epidemic struck. Even way earlier before the beginning of this pandemic, Ministry staff have often tried going door to door to find children who were not yet vaccinated.

“That turned out as an outstanding track record to vaccinate our kids,” he added.

Despite this great track record, some parents may still be hesitant to get their children vaccinated. However, both Dr. Eck and Dr. Beer noted that the benefits outweigh the chances of any mishap. Vaccinating students minimizes the risk of serious sickness as well as the risk of them getting the virus and transmitting it to susceptible families at home.

“I believe we have stated that COVID-19 is not a condition to be trifled with. It has lengthy implications, and we’re still discovering about the virus, including the fact that it’s not the coughing and cold that we believed it was at the start of the epidemic. Dr. Eck can help me here. Now we know it’s a systemic illness. So, why put someone at risk of contracting COVID-19 when there is a vaccine that can prevent them? And if they do become sick, it will safeguard them from being seriously unwell and requiring hospitalization,” Dr. Beer explained.

And obtaining the vaccines has not been a simple process. Dr. Natalia Beer also spoke to the media about the work that went into obtaining them, stating that the government had contacted Pfizer Inc. directly in an attempt to buy them with government money, but had got no answer.

“The vaccinations are not available for purchase.” Nations, mostly the larger countries, had placed their purchases long before we did. So, if we were to use government funding to purchase these vaccines, we were likely last on the line, but we were fortunate to receive a grant from the Slovenian Government,” she explained.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, unvaccinated people have a 24 times greater mortality rate than those who have been vaccinated. And, according to Dr. Beer, the data for the vaccine’s advantages is strong. Belizean families now have a “great chance,” she says, given the widespread lack of vaccine access in developing countries around the world.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Belize continues to climb, the Department of Health and Wellbeing recently announced that the country is experiencing its fifth phase of the virus, which is being fueled by the existence of the extremely infectious Omicron BA.2 strain. According to Dr. Cecilio Eck, who encourages parents to vaccinate their kids, the surge in incidence is also mirrored in the country’s pediatric population.

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