Gov’t applies pressure to ensure Guyana gets steady supply of Sputnik second doses

--- shipment expected next week

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By Kurt Campbell

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President Irfaan Ali on Friday said that he has been applying pressure on Russian authorities to ensure that Guyana gets a steady supply of the second doses of the Sputnik V vaccines it has ordered amid a global shortage.

He made the comment during a virtual press conference from New York City where he is attending the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

It comes as thousands of Guyanese who are already vaccinated with the first dose of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine are now forced to wait for prolonged periods for the second dose.

“We have been engaging the suppliers from Russia to ensure we get a steady supply.

“Every night I’m personally on the phone directly dealing with this and talking with the Russian Ambassador and every stakeholder,” the President said in response to a question from the News Room.

Noting that it was an important part of his agenda, the Head of State announced a shipment of second doses within the next seven days but did not say how many doses are expected to arrive.

President Irfaan Ali delivering his inaugural Independence Day speech on the eve of Guyana’s 55th Independence Anniversary (Photo: News Room/ May 25, 2021)

The last shipments have been weeks apart and only saw 5,000 second doses arriving each time. The situation has forced health authorities to extend the return date for thousands of persons already vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine.

It has also seen persons eligible for the second dose being turned away with preference being given to persons who took the first dose earlier this year.

The extension of the return date is, however, in keeping with updated information from the Gamaleya Research Centre, which developed the Sputnik V vaccine. According to a press release from the centre, it is possible to increase the minimum interval between the first and second vaccine shots from the earlier approved 21 days up to three months.

“Extending the interval will not affect the vaccine-induced immune response, and, in some cases, will enhance and prolong it,” Director of the Gamaleya Research Centre Dr Alexander Gintsburg was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in keeping with statements in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, the President also urged countries not to become divided based on the type of vaccines administered to citizens.

According to the President, following the scientific advice in the early stages to take whatever vaccines were available, Guyana purchased and vaccinated its citizens with Sputnik V which is yet to get the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The vaccine is, however, being used in more than 70 countries worldwide. And according to information from the vaccines’ clinical trials, it has about a 97 per cent efficacy; this efficacy refers to how well the vaccine was able to reduce the disease in a group of people who received a vaccination in the clinical trials.

Meanwhile, President Ali also observed that there is now a changing dimension where countries are moving away from the health issue to make the pandemic a business issue.

“I’ve had discussions with many leaders and they are concerned and hopeful that the matter does not move from a health issue to a business issue. The developing world is concerned about that,” he added.

During his address to the UNGA, the President emphasised: “… Millions took the vaccines which were available at a time of much uncertainty, and they are the unsung heroes.  They must not now be the subject of restrictions based on the vaccines they took.”

On Friday Dr Ali said while it is still unclear, should there be a need for a third dose of any of the vaccines, the government will rearrange its financial priorities to ensure that the third dose is also made available to its citizens.

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