Partially vaccinated Guyanese stuck in US; second dose Sputnik woes continue

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By Vishani Ragobeer

[email protected]

Some Guyanese who are partially vaccinated – that is, they have only received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine – have been unable to travel back from the United States of America (USA) because the local health authorities now require incoming passengers to be fully vaccinated.

On November 2, a Guyanese couple aged 49 and 52 attempted to travel back to Guyana aboard an American Airlines flight from New York. They were, however, unable to board their flight because the 52-year-old man had only received his first dose of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine before leaving for the USA in October. It is important to note that the US does not administer this vaccine.

“My dad couldn’t board the flight and they were basically left stranded,” Luis Kumar, the couple’s son, told the News Room on Thursday.

According to Kumar, his father attempted to get the second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine four times over the past few months but he was unsuccessful because of the persistent shortages of the second dose.

At the end of September, some 50,000 second doses of this vaccine finally arrived and the roll out commenced immediately. Around that same time, however, there were reports that the US would cease accepting international travellers who were not vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). These reports were later confirmed and the restrictions will take effect from November 8.

The Sputnik V vaccine has not received WHO approval as yet. Resultantly, the US authorities will not be accepting travellers who received this jab.

Before these US requirements were publicised, the couple had already made plans to travel to the US for the Christmas holidays. And so, Kumar explained that his parents rescheduled their flight so that they would be able to travel to the US before the restrictions took effect. As such, they left for the US and the man intended to get his second dose of the Sputnik V when he returned from his trip.

The couple and dozens of other Guyanese returning to Guyana before the US restrictions take effect on November 8, however, could not travel unless they were fully vaccinated because of Guyana’s own travel requirements.

Kumar says that his parents have been advised by US authorities to get revaccinated (that means getting fully vaccinated with another set of vaccines, like the Pfiizer vaccine) so that they can fly back home. But, he is concerned about the safety of this because both the local healthorities and the WHO have advised against this at this time.

Becoming revaccinated would also mean that the couple, and others, would have to stay in the US for another two to three weeks so that they can get the vaccine’s second dose.

That, Kumar explained, raises concerns about accommodation, finances and being unable to return to the jobs and daily lives.

The News Room engaged the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) on the matter and was informed that citizens who are partially vaccinated and are stuck abroad can write to the Task Force and request a waiver.

Those citizens should send their passport biodata page and a copy of their vaccination card to the Task Force’s email at: [email protected]

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