News Release

COVID-19 Vaccines Administered in Belize

World Immunization Week celebrated in April

The humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and UNICEF announced in February a US$20 million grant to support UNICEF’s global work with the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and the vaccines arm of the ACT Accelerator called the COVAX Facility. COVAX is 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). PAHO’s Revolving Fund is responsible for the procurement of vaccines for the countries of the Americas.

As of April 23, 2021, the one-year anniversary of the launch of the ACT Accelerator, over 40 million vaccine doses have shipped to 119 countries and territories since the first international delivery to Ghana in February. On March 31, Belize received its largest number of doses to date when a plane carrying 33,600 doses of the coronavirus vaccine arrived in Belize City, Belize.

“Belize cannot afford a child health crisis at this time,” said Alison Parker, Representative for UNICEF Belize.

At the time of the commitment, Latter-day Saint Charities was the single largest private-sector donor to UNICEF’s ACT Accelerator and COVAX (COVID-19 Global Vaccine Access) work.

The initial doses in Belize are being administered to frontline health care and social workers, as well as high-risk and vulnerable people.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out in phases prioritizing the most vulnerable, health care workers and persons 60 years of age and older, among others,” explained Hon. Michel Chebat, Belize’s minister of health and wellness.

Those working in the tourism sector are now being included in the priority groups because of their value to the hard-hit economy.

Tourism is one of Belize’s largest industries, with attractions including Mayan ruins, wildlife and one of the longest barrier reefs in the world.

“If you are not vaccinated, it will limit what you can do,” said Melissa Sanchez, a Belize City tour guide, who got her vaccine after receiving information about it from UNICEF staff who are educating the public and raising awareness of the benefits of vaccination.

“I noticed this is going to be something you will need in the future to travel to and from other countries,” said Belize City resident Raheim Jones, who is also one of the beneficiaries of the vaccine program. “I do appreciate it. I didn’t expect it this soon.”

The COVID-19 vaccine must be refrigerated to keep it viable. “One of the key areas of concern for us as UNICEF in Belize has been in the cold chain system,” Parker said.

“The cold chain includes refrigeration units as well as thermal boxes … meant to maintain doses at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) until ready to distribute,” she continued. “A generator has also been provided, as Belize is subject to frequent planned and unplanned power outages.”

As part of UNICEF’s work within ACT-A, UNICEF Belize will support the government of Belize and other partners in efforts to strengthen the cold chain and roll out communication campaigns in support of vaccination efforts.

The Church’s recent grant complements its US$3 million donation in 2020 to facilitate UNICEF’s urgent COVID-19 response, providing water, sanitation and hygiene services.

World Immunization Week, which is celebrated every year April 24-30, promotes the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease, build trust in vaccines, and combat misinformation. Immunizations save millions of lives every year and are widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful health interventions.

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