Dr Anthony rates Sputnik V as the best vaccine available; deems Harmon ‘reckless’ in calling for suspension


Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, on Thursday, said the government ordered 400,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from a supplier in Dubai, who had authentic access to them because the authorities here were sure about the effectiveness of the vaccines.

As such, he blasted the Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, for calling for a suspension in the use of the vaccine solely based on a report he found in a tabloid newspaper in Norway which questioned how the vaccines were acquired.

The Health Minister and his family took the Sputnik V vaccine. So did Harmon; in fact, sources told the News Room that Harmon specifically requested to have the Sputnik V vaccine. He took both doses, and like others who have, is now protected from serious illness or death from COVID-19.

But on Thursday, Harmon called for the suspension in the use of the vaccine simply because of an article that appeared in the Norwegian tabloid newspaper. The article questioned how a Sheik in Dubai and a private contractor had acquired the vaccine to distribute to Guyana and other countries, but nothing about the actual vaccines or their effectiveness. As such, he deemed Mr Harmon’s call to suspend the use of the vaccines as bizarre and reckless.

Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon (Photo: APNU+AFC/June 17, 2021)

The Minister within the office of the Prime Minister, Kwame McCoy, during a virtual press conference, said Harmon’s statement was treacherous and serves the anti-vaccination campaign.

The Health Minister said that Guyana tried to source vaccines from as many international partners it could.

At the time Guyana was shopping around, he said the Russian manufacturer could not directly supply Guyana and could not give assurances of when it would be able to do so. However, the authorities here became aware of authentic suppliers and chose Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Juma Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who visited Guyana in November 2020.

Guyana decided on a deal at the cost it was getting the vaccines given that there was a global demand and extreme shortage of vaccines available.

Harmon claimed that the vaccines were bought and the government kept the details a secret. But that is not true. At a recent press conference, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was asked and provided details about the transaction.

Jagdeo had stated that the vaccines were bought from the UAE which had a partnership with a private company for the supply of the vaccines.

Dr Anthony said the authorities in Guyana set itself a mission to ensure at least 500,000 persons are vaccinated and that would enable the country to establish the so-called herd immunity to get back to normal.

Dr Anthony said that even if the country paid a higher price for the Russian Sputnik V, it saw value in doing so, rather than having people get sick, hospitalised and die of COVID-19. In his words, the government was “happy” to spend the money.

Dr Anthony said that Harmon’s call for a suspension in the use of the Sputnik V vaccines is not helpful at this time, given that the country is facing vaccine hesitancy in some regions, including Region 10, a stronghold of Harmon’s party. In Region 10, just about 14% of persons are vaccinated, compared to 50% in most regions.

The Health Minister said he hopes that right-thinking Guyanese would take the vaccine and ensure Guyana exits the pandemic which has so far killed 441 persons.

So far, over 224,000 Guyanese have taken at least one dose of the vaccine.

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