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  • @ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Belize Giving Away $60,000 in Vaccine Raffles

Updated: Jan 17


Mr. Sidney Russell rounding up his horses and cattle on his land at Bermuda Landing

 

When visiting Bermuda Landing many years ago, my grandmother’s husband and I crossed the Belize River to apply preventative medicine to some of his horses and cattle. Almost instinctively, he chose to apply half of the recommended dosage.


Some of us have a habit of stretching out medicine to make it last longer. However, this practice often reduces the effectiveness of the medicine as is the case with COVID-19 vaccines.


With the exception of the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, the three other approved vaccines require two doses for full efficacy. The Belize Ministry of Health & Wellness also recommends a booster shot for those 18 and older.


The government initiated a national vaccination raffle for eight weeks with the first drawing on December 1. Each week, prizes will total $7,500 for eight winners – 1 at $3,000; 2 at $1,000, and 5 at $500. The drawings will take place on Mondays at 2 p.m. in Belmopan. The first was shown live on the Ministry of Health & Wellness Facebook page.


After receiving the first jab, the second or a booster, the patient fills out a raffle ticket with their name, age, BHIS number (Belize Health Information System) and contact information.


Now, Belizeans can make online appointments after entering a Social Security number. Please visit your nearest health center for an appointment if you do not have a Social Security number. Otherwise, COVID-19 vaccinations are available at various sites around the country, which are open from 8:30 a.m. to at least 2 p.m. every day. The Ministry of Health & Wellness Facebook page usually lists vaccination sites in all six districts.


“We do have enough vaccines on hand,” said Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Technical Advisor, Maternal Child Health, on the Ministry’s COVID-19 update Up 2 the Minute (November 30). “There are more than 300,000 doses in store” and more doses in the future.”


So, unlike many other developing nations, Belize has enough vaccines. There is no need to stretch the supply. A look at the COVID-19 deaths from September 1 to December 1 shows that fully vaccinated people fared better at surviving the virus. Of the 213 who died, 166 were either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. (Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, a total of 578 people have lost their lives.) In the following table, there is no information about the victims’ diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, which would have weakened the immunity of the patient and rendered the vaccine less effective.


Cumulative deaths (September 1, 2021 – December 1, 2021)


Age Deaths Unvaccinated Partially Vaccinated Fully Vaccinated


0-19 1 1 0 0

20-29 5 4 1 0


30-39 19 17 1 1


40-49 39 27 8 4


50-59 39 23 6 7


60-69 36 17 2 12


70-79 39 22 7 11


80+ 35 30 0 5


(Source: Belize Ministry of Health & Wellness)


The four vaccines administered in Belize are AstraZeneca (8 weeks between first and second jab); Pfizer (21 days between jabs); Sinopharm (25 days between jabs), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) (single dose).


On November 30, the waiting time for booster shots was reduced from five months to three, except for Janssen, which remains at two months, according to Dr. Beer. If you become ill with COVID-19, wait one month after laboratory analysis before getting a booster unless you still have symptoms. If so, wait until your symptoms are gone.


Pfizer is the recommended vaccine for a booster. However, Dr. Beer said that patients’ wishes would be respected if they chose a different one.


Following detection of the Omicron variant, which was first reported by scientists in South Africa, the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) has “alerted its health teams in the districts and advised for increased surveillance.


“The new variant has numerous mutations, which may make it more transmissible, especially amongst the unvaccinated population, and WHO (World Health Organization) has indicated that this variant poses a very high risk for global spread,” said a Government of Belize press release (December 2).


“The Ministry is in communication with Baylor College of Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that the Central Medical Laboratory is equipped with the necessary agents to identify the variant.


“The Government of Belize is currently not considering any flight bans. At this time, there are no direct flights into Belize from any southern African countries . . .


“The MOHW reminds the public to get vaccinated as a matter of urgency if they have not already done so. For those eligible, the booster dose is available. The ministry reiterates the importance of adhering to public health measures, which include proper wearing of a fitted facemask covering both the nose and mouth, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds where possible, and regularly washing and sanitizing hands.”


The Ministry also urged people to stay at home unless conducting essential business.


Dr. James Baker, Jr., a University of Michigan immunologist who writes Pandemic Pondering, commented on the new variant, Omicron, which caused global panic while it still was under investigation:


“This virus reportedly arose in an HIV-infected individual with poor immunity, which reportedly allowed the virus to stay in the body a long time and mutate. Also, initial reports on cases in other parts of the world were in unvaccinated individuals.


“This last issue highlights that the best way to prevent the development of new variants is to vaccinate EVERYONE worldwide!”


A total of 193,000 people, or 48.6 percent, had been vaccinated fully in Belize, according to Our World in Data (December 3).













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