BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 23, 2021– Today, Monday, August 23, marks the beginning of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to a demographic group that previously was excluded from all talks of vaccination in Belize: children aged 12-17.
Prior to the arrival of a shipment of Pfizer vaccines on Wednesday, Belize had in its arsenal only AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines, neither of which have undergone sufficient trials on persons within that particular age range in order to qualify for authorized use on persons below the age of 18. Since the receipt of 111,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the US on Wednesday, however, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is expanding its vaccination outreach to teens, which could pave the way for a safer return to face-to-face instruction. Based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Education has thus postponed the resumption of classroom learning until October to allow for adolescents to be vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been making added efforts to make the vaccine more easily accessible to students of this age range. Instead of having to go to hospitals to be vaccinated, students will be able to receive vaccines at designated schools, provided that they present a consent form signed by their parents/guardians.
Thus far, only the Central Health Region has published its vaccination schedule. The first period of the schedule spans three days, starting from Monday, August 23, and lasting until Wednesday, August 25. This period will allow for persons aged 16-17 to get vaccinated. The two vaccination sites are the St. John’s College (SJC) Auditorium and the Swift Hall. Schools will be allotted specific days for vaccination of their students to decrease waiting time and unnecessarily large gatherings.
On the first day, students of Edward P. Yorke High School, SJC, and SJCJC students will be vaccinated at the SJC auditorium, and Anglican Cathedral College and Sadie Vernon High School students will receive vaccines at the Swift Hall. On the following day, students of Belize High School, Pallotti High School, Canaan High School, and ITVET will be allowed to get vaccinated at the SJC auditorium, while Wesley College and Maud Williams High School students will receive vaccines at Swift Hall. On the final day, students of St. Catherine Academy and Nazarene High School will undergo vaccinations at the SJC auditorium, while Gwen Lizarraga High School and Excelsior High School students will be vaccinated at the Swift Hall. The scheduling will be repeated over the days of August 26-28 to allow for children aged 12-15 to get vaccinated.
The children of Belize have not received face-to-face instruction for over a year. In a release from the Government of Belize Press Office, the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño, said, “We have to depend on these children. They are going to be the next generation that is going to take over from us. If they don’t have the right tools to take over, this country will be condemned.”