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Ministry of Health urges Belizeans to get AstraZeneca doses before they expire

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Posted: Friday, January 21, 2022. 3:42 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Health has stated that it may take weeks to restock Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the current batch expires at the end of January.

Belize has received a total of 368,800 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine since February of 2021, and used approximately 85 percent, leaving 59,000 doses. 27 percent of the total was purchased and the remainder donated, according to Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Technical Advisor for Maternal and Child Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness and point person on the vaccination campaign. Each dose costs US$4 or eight Belize dollars.

Some 212,388 Belizeans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 202,357 are fully vaccinated since the national vaccination program began last March.

But Dr. Beer estimates that a further 99 thousand Belizeans have for their own reasons not gotten vaccinated, which she attributes to “needing further information” on the way vaccines work and how they protect against the worst of COVID-19.”

She credited the vaccination teams for going the extra mile to ensure every dose per vial is used and seek out individuals to be vaccinated, but “it is a really painful situation, painful because of the value of [vaccines] in the battle against COVID-19 and also because we have tried to re-donate these vaccines but we haven’t had any positive response receiving AstraZeneca vaccines as a donation.” The vaccines can still be used if every person pending a first and second dose and booster for those who ask for it shows up in the next 10 days. A restocking awaits the decision on the COVAX program, which previously provided allocations to Belize.

Dr. Beer said she had not noticed any change in preference from Oxford-AstraZeneca to Pfizer but a general reduction in numbers of vaccinations, but emphasized that despite what appears to be the milder nature of Omicron, COVID-19 still packs a deadly punch and more variants may lurk out there and we need to be protected.

“I really hope that they come out, because it’s not an issue of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the expiration date – even if they come out for other vaccines it doesn’t matter – but we need to come out, because it’s the only way we can protect the country, protect ourselves, protect our loved ones, our co-workers, if everybody gets vaccinated,” she stated when it was suggested that she didn’t sound hopeful Belizeans would, but noted that it costs the Ministry the same whether two or three or two hundred or three hundred are vaccinated per day.

And if you come out for the first dose with AstraZeneca, it is confirmed you can get Pfizer or another vaccine for the second dose with the same effects.

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