COVID vaccines from India arrive; Indian diplomat assures no favours expected in return  

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Guyana received 80,000 doses of the ‘Covishield’ Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from India on Sunday, and High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Dr. K. J. Srinivasa emphasised that the South Asian country did not donate the vaccine with the expectation of any favours in return.

The vaccines arrived in Guyana, at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), early Sunday morning, and were received by Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd; Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, and the Indian High Commissioner.

“India sees these donations as ‘vaccine maitri’ meaning ‘vaccine friendship’ but my media friends often use the words ‘vaccine diplomacy’,” Dr. Srinivasa said at a press conference following the arrival of the vaccines.

He, however, highlighted, “I want to stress here that India donates these vaccines with nothing in demand (from) the country. We do not ask for any quid pro quos. India is donating the vaccines in a spirit of collaboration, in a spirit of friendship, and in a spirit of helping our friends to acquire these vaccines across the world.”

As part of its vaccine maitri initiative, India has been donating thousands of the Covishield vaccine doses to countries across the world. Some 570,000 doses of the vaccine are earmarked for distribution across the Caribbean region alone.

High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Dr. K. J. Srinivasa hands over the ‘Covishield’ Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 to Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips. Also in the photo is Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd (Photo: DPI photo/March 7, 2021)

“These 80,000 doses are significant of (sic) the depth of our friendly relations with Guyana; it also shows our commitment to the world as a first responder,” the High Commissioner noted, highlighting India’s research and pharmaceutical capacity.

He also emphasised that the donation is another testimony to the strong bilateral relations Guyana and India enjoy. This donation, he related, builds upon prior donations made to help Guyana mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since this vaccine is distributed in two doses, the donation from India will be able to offer protection to 40,000 Guyanese. As per the Health Ministry’s vaccination schedule, frontline health workers will be the first to receive the vaccines, followed by elderly persons, other frontline workers, and teachers.

Dr. Srinivasa also pointed out that the use of this vaccine is advantageous to Guyana since it does not require lower-than-normal storage capacity like few of the other approved COVID-19 vaccines that are being across the world.

After receiving the vaccines, Prime Minister, Brigadier Phillips expressed his gratitude to the Government and People of India, highlighting that the donation will help Guyana to vaccinate its population “in a substantial way”.

One of the boxes containing the vaccines donated by India (Photo: DPI photo/March 7, 2021)

The Prime Minister also made a strong appeal to all Guyanese to accept the vaccines once they are afforded the opportunity to get vaccinated.

The Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs also expressed gratitude to India for the donation of the vaccines.

The Health Minister noted that discussions for the procurement of additional vaccines are ongoing with the Government of India, in addition to wider discussions with various countries and bodies to procure enough vaccines to immunise the population by the end of 2021.

According to Dr. Anthony, the local health authorities have also begun looking into India’s indigenous vaccine, Covaxin, which has shown efficacy of 81 percent after the completion of the Phase III trials. Trials for this vaccine have also been conducted with children.

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