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…says Gov’t placed the lives of thousands at risk by purchasing the vaccine from a middleman
…urges President, MOH to be transparent on vaccine acquisition
Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon has called on the Government to put a hold on the administration of the recently procured 200,000 doses of Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccines until they can be verified as trustworthy and as obtained from trustworthy sources.
Harmon made the call during a press conference on Thursday where he also requested that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ministry of Health provide information about the shipment and storage of the vaccine which also has not yet been approved by PAHO/WHO.
The said additional doses were procured by the Administration at over $957M from Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who is allegedly embroiled in a vaccine scheme.
“We demand that the Ministry of Health provide us with the batch numbers purchased from Sheik Al Maktoum; the details of the shipping, including the transhipment and the conditions under which the vaccines were stored. Also all importation documents for the said batches in the countries where the vaccines were stored,” Harmon said.
He added: “As a result, and for a matter of safety, APNU+AFC demands that these vaccines should be put on hold until the population is given assurance that what we are dealing with, it’s not a bogus transaction and that we are dealing with a safe arrangement.”
It was revealed in the National Assembly during the Committee of Supply that Guyana paid nearly double for the 200,000 doses of Sputnik-V and 100,000 doses of Sinopharm when compared to the standard cost outlined by PAHO/WHO.
Pressed by Harmon and others, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony said that the Government was going through “licensed suppliers” to get doses of Sputnik-V and AstraZeneca because it was difficult to get them through the original source.
Not long after, Harmon related to the media that Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), in a recent global investigative report, has linked Guyana to a COVID-19 vaccine racket in which intermediaries from the UAE are obtaining the Sputnik vaccine and are re-selling it at a premium.
The Opposition Leader recalled that it was November last that Sheik Al Maktoum, accompanied by Umar Farooq Zahoor, visited Guyana on a private jet as a guest of the State and was hosted by President Irfaan Ali.
He said, according to the Norwegian newspaper, Zahoor is a Pakistani national who grew up in Norway, and is wanted as part of an investigation into a massive fraud. However, he is reportedly being protected by the United Arab Emirates and his close associate Sheik Al Maktoum.
GUYANESE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW
Harmon noted that the APNU+AFC’s contention is specifically with the Sputnik-V vaccine which he said was purchased through the said means without consultation from the National Assembly. He also referenced Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, who announced during a recent press conference that he would not lead the island along Guyana’s path to administer vaccines that have not been approved by PAHO/WHO.
“Guyanese were given the impression by this Government that, like all the vaccines which were made available to Guyana, the Sputnik-V vaccine had been authorized. What we of course discovered from statements made by the Minister of Health was that that authorization was a local authorization from the Food and Drug Department, which is a Department under the said Ministry of Health. So that is the authorization we have, based on these vaccines which were ordered from a middleman in the United Arab Emirates that was produced ostensibly in Russia, and that we are now vaccinating our population with. The PPP has placed the lives of thousands of Guyanese at risk by purchasing this vaccine from a middleman at the exorbitant price and kept this a secret from Guyanese people up until now,” the Opposition Leader chastised.
Harmon, who has taken both the first and second dose of the Sputnik-V vaccine, said that the intention is not to cause terror or vaccine hesitancy with PAHO/WHO approved vaccines but to prevent possible harm from coming to the people of Guyana.
He said: “I have been on record as encouraging Guyanese to be vaccinated. The APNU is on record as encouraging Guyanese to be vaccinated, but this what has happened here is now putting the entire program and the entire process in some level of doubt.”
He told the media that should the Sputnik-V be approved and acquired from trusted sources, it will receive his support. Until then, he called on President Irfaan Ali to take on a posture of full disclosure about the Government’s procurement of vaccines and the specific vaccine in question.
“The Guyanese people have a right to know more about this,” he implored.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, in a statement on Wednesday denied involvement in illegality.
“At no time did Guyana procure vaccines from any illegal entity or anyone in trouble with legal authorities anywhere. At no time did Guyana access vaccines secretly from anyone. In every instance, the Ministry of Health has followed the established process and has established legally binding contracts to ensure the timely delivery of these vaccines,” the Ministry stated.
The Health Ministry said in an attempt to ensure sufficient supplies it held bilateral discussions with countries, namely India, China, Russia, the US, the EU, Kuwait and the UAE. However, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson were not in a position to supply vaccines to Guyana in 2021. Johnson and Johnson later indicated that its timeline could be shifted to the 4th quarter of 2021.
The Ministry stated: “Guyana was not willing to wait on Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. Clearly, for immediate vaccination of the Guyanese people, our immediate reaction was to seek other options.