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Oct 22, 2020

Healthy Living: PAHO COVAX Update

Last Friday, the Prime Minister and the Director of Health Services provided an update on Belize’s preparation to access a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.  The DHS, Doctor Marvin Manzanero spoke of a down payment made to the COVAX facility, which would allow access to vaccines when they are created for up to thirty percent of our population. But what is COVAX? We find out more in tonight’s Healthy Living.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

When scientists develop a vaccine for Covid-19, we need not worry about Belize’s access to a fair share. That’s because of a global effort to ensure that all countries – no matter what size or income – have the same access to vaccines. The World Health Organization coordinates it, and it’s called COVAX. On Wednesday, the Pan American Health Organization shared the latest updates on this facility.


Carissa Etienne

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO

“COVAX will be the best viable option that countries will have to access COVID-19 vaccines in the short term. That’s why over 182 countries and economies around the world have joined this initiative. We’re also happy to report that virtually every country in Latin America and the Caribbean has joined or is in the process of joining the facility.”


Belize’s Director of Health Services provided that update at Friday’s press conference.


Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“It would be for thirty percent of the population, and the initial down payment is three hundred and eighty-two thousand U.S. dollars. This would have been paid, and the remaining two point one million dollars is payable once the vaccines are available.”


And that availability will be until the vaccines meet the standards of the World Health Organization.


Dr. Carissa Etienne

“Today, we have a pipeline of more than 190 vaccine candidates under study, with eleven in phase III clinical trials, several of them including volunteers in our region. While the world urgently awaits a breakthrough, it is important to highlight that PAHO will only support the distribution of a vaccine that has proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials reviewed by National Regulatory Authorities and recommended by the World Health Organization.”


In addition to assisting in the region’s COVID response plans, PAHO has now expanded its efforts to ensure that countries are prepared for when a vaccine is approved.


Dr. Carissa Etienne

“Most recently, these efforts have focused on ensuring that our region has equitable access to a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. And that in the meantime, countries have the systems in place to prepare for, distribute, and to pay for this vaccine once it arises. So that populations are protected as quickly and effectively as possible.”


Locally, Dr. Manzanero has indicated that a COVID-19 vaccine in Belize would be distributed similarly to the yearly flu shot.


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“It would mimic what we are doing with the flu vaccine, which we have forty thousand doses, which means healthcare workers go first, the vulnerable population – people older than sixty – the flu vaccine – I am using them as an example. Children under twenty-three months, pregnant women, hypertensives, kidney failure patients, HIV patients, and that’s how your list is expanded.”


Dr. Carissa Etienne

“Not only is this a vital part of reducing the impact of the virus on health systems but because we know that with COVID-19, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Protecting our most vulnerable population is key to getting back to normal as quickly and as safely as possible.”


But while we wait for the vaccine, PAHO’s Director Dr. Etienne urged member states to continue their efforts in reducing transmission.


Dr. Carissa Etienne

“COVID-19 cases are plateauing across much of Central America, with Costa-Rica presenting the highest incidence rate during the last week and Belize reporting a steady increase. In the English-speaking Caribbean, most new cases are related to non-essential international travel. Last week, Grenada reported its first new COVID-19 case in three months, coinciding with a reopening of its borders. These resurgences underscore that fighting this pandemic is not a one-time effort. It requires a sustained response; even in places where transmission is down, we must keep it up.  It’s as important now as it was in April. And it will be even more important once we have a vaccine. Together we can overcome COVID-19.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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