Belize City, Belize, 31 March 2021 (PAHO/WHO) - Belize today received 33,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a global effort between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The arrival marks a historic step toward ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, in the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. This delivery is part of the first phase of deliveries for Belize, and more vaccines are expected to arrive successively during 2021. According to the first round of COVAX allocations, Belize is expected to continue receiving doses until it reaches 100,800, the amount specified by COVAX.
PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which is responsible for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the countries of the Americas under the COVAX Mechanism, sent 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by SK Bioscience of South Korea. The vaccines arrived today at the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA).
“The arrival of the vaccines through COVAX is very encouraging as it means that more people will now be able to be protected from COVID-19,” said Dr. Noreen Jack, PAHO/WHO Representative in Belize. “We will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the country to support vaccination along with the known public health and social measures that can help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and save lives.”
These first vaccines will serve to protect priority groups and those most at risk, such as health workers, older adults, persons with special conditions (cancer, HIV & requiring dialysis), as well as persons in the other vaccine distribution phases in Belize.
Hon. Michel Chebat, Minister of the Ministry of Health and Wellness expressed how grateful he was for this delivery that will add to the vaccines that we already have.
“We extend appreciation for the team effort coordinated through our partners, PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and IDB for negotiating, purchasing, and handling the shipment logistics on behalf of Belize and the other 36 countries participating in COVAX,” said Minister Chebat. “This was our only hope for a long time to ensure that the people of Belize get vaccines and now we can celebrate the arrival today.”
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2020, the country has recorded 12,452 cases and 317 deaths as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (as of 30 March 2021).
“Today’s arrival of the first COVAX shipment marks another milestone for the children of Belize who have been the silent victims of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Alison Parker, Representative for UNICEF Belize. “The past year has plunged Belize into a humanitarian and socio-economic crisis upending the lives of societies, communities and families, especially children. As over 108,000 children prepare to return to the classrooms in the upcoming months, the arrival of the vaccines advances us one step closer to creating a post-COVID environment that is safe for children to return to schools and regain a sense of security and normalcy. It is also a signal of the commitment of the Government and partners like the COVAX, inclusive of UNICEF, to prioritize mobilizing required resources to afford Belizeans optimal health care and protection in response to this crisis. Accelerating vaccination coverage is critical to stabilizing the social and economic impact of COVID-19 and rebuilding Belize, and UNICEF is proud to be part of this national effort in the interest of Belize’s children.”
COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20% of the population of each participating country during 2021. In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 and 2.6% of their population. The only exceptions are small island developing States, which will receive an allocation of vaccines to cover between 16 and 20% of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small quantities of vaccines.
“Expanding access to vaccines is vital for overcoming the pandemic and its detrimental effects on the life of people and the economy,” said Birgit Gerstenberg, Resident Coordinator of United Nations Belize. “Its progress is crucial in order to get back to the path of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, poverty reduction, food security for all, universal health coverage, decent work and so much more. Thanks to science and technology, the newly developed COVID-19 vaccines are made available in record time and poised to be a powerful tool in the control of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The public’s confidence in, and willingness to receive the vaccines will determine the outcome of this mass-scale public health intervention. The United Nations Country Team has been working tirelessly this past year to provide as much support to the Government of Belize in facing the consequences of the pandemic and helping those most at-risk. Let us continue to confront the pandemic and take all measures of mitigation at our reach. Stay at home when you are sick, wear a mask when among others, practice social distancing and when eligible, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Consider it a measure that may save lives as only together, we will build back better.”
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.
“Today is a bright day in the year-ling fight against COVID-19, said Nicolaus Hansmann, Team Leader of the European Union Technical Office in Belize. “With the arrival of these vaccines under the multi-actor global collaboration, COVAX, we are getting closer to the goal of bringing the virus under control. As one of the lead partners of COVAX, contributing over 2.2 billion Euros, the European Union and its Member States are proud of its role in ensuring equitable access to vaccines for people everywhere.”
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.
At PAHO Headquarters: