Over one hundred thousand Pfizer vaccines arrived in Belize today via the Fedex Express Cargo flight. The vaccines are earmarked for young persons between the ages of twelve and eighteen and will begin rolling out as early as Monday morning. A brief ceremony took place at the Philip Goldson International Airport as government officials received the first of several shipments. Present at the ceremony was the CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amalia Mai and Heatlh Minister Michel Chebat.
Amalia Mai, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration: “Today the first allocation of the 345,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID19 vaccine so generously donated by the Government of Belize was recieved a few minutes ago. The donation to Belize along with the requisite ancillary kits is a portion of a 5.5 million dose donation of the vaccine to the Caribbean region as agreed between former CARICOM chairman Keith Rowley the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and US President Joe Biden. Here in Belize through bilateral discussions with the US embassy we’re happily now receiving this donation. “
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Today’s donation of the Pfizer vaccine from the Government and people of the United States of America to the Government and people of Belize is timely. In June President Joe Biden committed to donate at least 80 million vaccines to countries throughout the world as a part of the White House Global Vaccination efforts. On behalf of the people of Belize I want to express our sincerest gratitude to the Government and people of the United States of America.”
Overseeing the arrival of the vaccines was the recently installed Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy, Leyla Moses-Ones (Oh-Nesh). This is the first official event for Moses-Ones since taking over from her predecessor, Keith Gilges. She spoke on the importance and urgency for vaccines and the commitment from the United States to assist Belize.
Leyla Moses Ones, Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy: “Today the United States begins our direct donation of over 245,000 doses of the Pfizer Vaccine to Belize which is enough to fully vaccinated over 170,000 citizens. President Biden has articulated the need to work together as we have seen COVID does not recognize borders. COVID does not recognize sovereignty, it attacks humans regardless of what your passport looks like. And the United States is committing to donating vaccines to support the global need to end the damaging public health and economic consequences of this COVID19 pandemic. And the arrival of this first tranche of the Pfizer vaccine shows how partner nations such as Belize and the United States are working together to battle COVID19. It is neither the first nor will it be the last example of our two nations uniting to achieve a common goal.”
As we noted the rollout of the Pfizer vaccines will begin on Monday and reports are that traditional classes could possibly resume in October. According to the Minister of Health, Michel Chebat, the decision to delay face to face classes was based on the imminent arrival of the vaccines for students.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The decision came when we were finally able to get an arrival date for the vaccine. Once we had that we immediately engaged the Ministry of Education to push back the start date to the face to face. This Pfizer vaccine gives us an opportunity to protect our kids between twelve to eighteen years old and what we were trying to do is give all of our children the best possible opportunity. We all know our kids have been out of school for the past year, it has affect them personally, socially, psychologically and so for us it is important to get them back into school and this Pfizer vaccine will help us to get them back in the safety possible way. We are expecting that as of Monday it will become available to all of our children twelve and above.”
It is the hope of the government that parents will approve the vaccination of their children although Minister Chebat noted that it cannot be imposed on them.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We cannot impose the vaccine. We’ve not imposed the vaccine on anyone and if as an adult you’re super careful with your children you’re gonna be ever more careful. And at the Ministry of Health and Wellness we’re fully aware of this, we’re making all of our doctors available to answer the questions that parents may have. We’re working with the principals to try to share as much information as we can so that parents can make an informed decision for their children. The AstraZeneca vaccine has worked wonderfully. It has had incredible results. I do understand there are people who are waiting for this vaccine, there are people who believe that because they may have some type of allergies and so on that this may be the better vaccine. In the initial phase until we receive the second tranche we are going to try as best as possible to reserve this tranche so that our children can get back into school.”
With all the information and misinformation coming out of the media on the effects of the Covid-19 vaccines for adults there is the concern from parents on the effects it would have on teenagers. Speaking on this was the Charge d’ Affaires at the US Embassy, Leyla Moses-Ones.
Leyla Moses-Ones, Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy: “I’m gonna be personal I have a twelve year old daughter and so every parent has to do a risk analysis and what we know is overwhelmingly physicians, scientists and all of the data has shown conclusively that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for twelve and over and so at the end of the day it is a personal decision but I think if you look at the risk factors against the overwhelming data and consensus it is the right thing to do personally and for public health purposes.”
This morning’s arrival of the Pfizer vaccines was done through CARICOM and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the US Embassy and the Government of Belize.