Guyana vaccinates refugees and migrants as inoculation drive rolls out across all regions

For refugees and migrants like Marianys Perez, having access to vaccinations is a chance at surviving the deadly coronavirus.
Woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccination from a health care worker
09 June 2021

Venezuelan Marianys Katerin Perez thought the chance of being vaccinated against the coronavirus was far out of reach. But in March, she was among the first Venezuelan refugees and migrants to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Puruni’s local hospital, a small and remote mining village in Guyana’s Region Seven.

“I don’t want to get sick. So many people have died, and I am scared,” said Marianys. “I heard we had access to the vaccine, so I went immediately. I am grateful we have this opportunity.”

Several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean extended access to the COVID-19 vaccine to refugees and migrants in their immunization roll-outs. The Caribbean country of Guyana began its immunization campaign in early February, after receiving donations of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Barbados. In its first phase, frontline health workers and people over 60 were prioritized, and the roll-out was further expanded after the delivery of over 80,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in March.

Across all regions in the country, local authorities, UN Agencies and civil society, including R4V partners, have been disseminating information to promote vaccinations among local, refugee and migrant communities. Over 50,000 locals, refugees and migrants had been inoculated by the end of March.
Guyana hosts an estimated 23,000 Venezuelans, who have fled rising insecurity and lack of access to basic services in their home country. Like Marianys, many of them were forced to flee a dire humanitarian situation.

“I never imagined I would have to leave my country. It was very difficult to have to leave my children behind, but I had to,” she said. Since arriving in Guyana back in 2018, Marianys settled in the small town of Puruni, where she has been able to hold a modest job that helps her family survive back home in Ciudad Bolivar.
Worried about the outbreak of the pandemic, Marianys has consistently worn a facemask to keep herself and those around her safe, until it was time to get vaccinated. “Many people did not pay attention to the pandemic. But we need to curb this virus together: if the majority gets vaccinated, we can put an end to this virus here.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, R4V partners have been working closely with government authorities to curb the spread of the virus. A year into the health crisis, R4V partners have been able to support the dissemination of information, making efforts to reach out to refugees and migrants from Venezuela with COVID-19 prevention materials translated into Spanish and Warao. R4V partners have also supported the response from local authorities by providing protective equipment and housing units to be used as quarantine and medical facilities.

By the end of March 2021, Guyana had recorded over 10,700 confirmed cases and 250 deaths. With increasing trends in the spread of COVID-19 in the country and the risks posed with variants, vaccinations become the more necessary.