Today, Belize received its second shipment of 33,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a global partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was established by the World Health Organization to ensure fair allocation and equitable access to vaccines for all countries, especially those that may not have enough resources to secure initial access to vaccine supply. Through COVAX, countries are first given the opportunity to secure vaccines for at least 20 percent of their population. In the case of Belize, coverage for 30% of the population was negotiated. Once all participating countries have received enough vaccines to cover 20% of their population, further allocations may be made.
For Belize, an initial allocation of 100,800 was approved. Of this amount, Belize has now received a total of 67,200 doses since the first delivery of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines, manufactured by SK Bioscience of South Korea, was arrived on March 31. PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which is responsible for procuring COVID-19 vaccines for countries of the Americas under the COVAX Mechanism, facilitated both shipments. Referencing the arrival of the second shipment, Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness recognizes the effort of each of the 48,515 persons vaccinated up to May 10, 2021. “By getting vaccinated we are all contributing to contain the negative outcomes associated to COVID 19. This shipment has arrived two days before administering the last doses of the current stock.”
“The arrival of this new shipment of vaccines is reassuring because this means that those who have received their first doses can now receive their second dose without delays,” said Dr. Noreen Jack, PAHO/WHO Representative of Belize. “Additionally, using a platform like COVAX ensures fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccinations for countries like Belize to keep their population protected against Sars-CoV-2.”
This set of vaccines will enhance the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ efforts in delivering vaccines to those in the distribution phases while ensuring that Belize continues to maintain low levels of community transmission. Until vaccination is widespread among the population, basic public health measures remain the basis of the pandemic response. For public health authorities, this means continuing to conduct screening, contact tracing, isolation, assisted quarantine, and quality care. And for people, it means continuing to practice physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of masks, adequate ventilation of indoor environments, and avoidance of crowded spaces.
Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative for Belize stated, “the current situation in several parts of the world, underscores why we cannot grow lax in our approach to fighting this pandemic. We must remain vigilant and continue the important task of protection and prevention – vaccinating our population to increase immunity and protect the vulnerable among us, as grandmothers, parents and teachers are crucial to the safety, wellbeing, and protection of children. By staying the course, we can reduce the number of persons that contract COVID-19 and continue our steady and safe path to returning our citizenry, especially the children, to a state of normalcy.”
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. In the Americas, the PAHO Revolving Fund is the recognized procurement agent for the COVAX facility.