Notably missing from yesterday’s Health Press Conference was the head honcho, Minister Michel Chebat. It did stir some speculation especially since reports were surfacing of his possible replacement. It turns out there will be no such change.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Precisely because it’s a public health crisis we felt it is important to have the technical people out there, to have the doctors out there explaining to the public the impact of this COVID virus and they’re the ones on the front line so we feel they’re the best to communicate. Dr.Murray was not there because we actually had a orientation meeting with PAHO yesterday and so he was a critical part of that. He presented to PAHO our 2021 health priorities and so he was at that meeting along with me yesterday.”
As it relates to the vaccination campaign, the media asked Minister Chebat if he feels that there is a dire need for a new strategy.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We have now 95,000 people who are fully vaccinated. We have over 180,000 with a first dose and so I agree that perhaps we need to relook and revitalize the vaccination campaign and look at other strategies. I can tell you that next week we are going to be coming out into the south side. We reaching to all of our area representatives across the country to use their machinery to help us to get to those persons who have not yet5 come out. And so you’re gonna be seeing a bit of change in the approach we take starting next week. Remember where we started, we started with a thousand vaccines back in March and so that vaccines were not readily available at the very inception of this, it was not until June when we got our hundred thousand vaccines through Mexico that we’re really able to open up for everybody. And os between June and now I think we’ve done excellent. Clearly we want more people to be vaccinated. We keep on saying vaccination is the only solution and so we continue to encourage everybody to come out and get vaccinated.”
At present Belize has sufficient vaccines to service the eligible population. With other countries already administering booster shots, Minister Chebat was asked if we would be donating the excess vaccines and if we will be seeking booster shots.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We follow WHO regulations as we best we can and they are not at this time promoting a booster shot. There is also the argument about equity in vaccinations. You know there are countries around the world who don’t have the access and have not been as fortunate as we are to have these vaccinations. Our first priority are our people. Once we vaccinated the majority of our people then government will have to make a decision whether or not we have extra and if whether we’re gonna use them as boosters or whether we’re gonna be donating them to our neighbors but that’s gonna be a government decision.”
Another issue brought to Minister Chebat surrounded Kaylyn Habet who was sent to Baylor College to study gene sequencing. Stakeholders in the medical laboratory sector expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of transparency in the selection with claims that Habet was not qualified for the training.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Sometimes you have to stop and wonder where the messaging is coming from. She has been working at Central Medical Lab as a lab technician and so I don’t know how that kind of argument can be made. The selection was made by the director of the lab and so we trust their direction. We trust their selection. I can tell you that the training they’re gonna get is essential for us. This is the training we need to be able to identify in Belize the variants we have so I welcome the opportunity of having two of our technicians trained in the United States.”