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…says Gov’t has been in constant contact with Russia
President Irfaan Ali has announced that, in the next 5-7 days, Guyana can expect a shipment of second doses of the Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccines, even as it has been reported that thousands have been awaiting their second jab for quite some time.
“As of now, we’re expecting — based on what was told to us — in the next five to six days, they’re expecting a shipment from the suppliers,” the President said at a virtual press conference from New York on Friday. He did not disclose how many doses are to arrive in the shipment.
“Every night we are on the phone directly dealing with this, talking to the Ambassador of Russia, talking to Russia directly, talking to every stakeholder who can assist in this, and that is an important part of our agenda. So, within the next seven days, we expect to have a shipment of component two of Sputnik vaccine.”
The President said that Guyana is very fortunate as a high percentage of the world’s population have received very limited or no access to COVID-19 vaccines. Since the vaccines were developed, he highlighted that the Government has been working to acquire any available vaccines for its people, but this effort takes time.
“We have tried to get any vaccine. We tried Pfizer, we tried Maderna, you name the vaccine, we tried it. We were able to get AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sputnik in the initial phase. Now, we have been engaging the suppliers, we have been engaging Russia to ensure that we have a steady supply,” he said.
In a COVID-19 update this month, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, assured that people awaiting their second dose of Sputnik-V can wait up to 180 days or six months for the vaccine to be administered without harm.
“I would encourage people to continue to get their first dose because, we are going to address this, everybody who took the first dose would be able to get their second,” he assured.
However, a group of Guyanese – Salima A. Bacchus-Hinds, Karen Abrams, Ashma John and Francis M. Bailey – have raised questions about the gap between the first and second dose of the Sputnik vaccine and whether there is sound research to support the constantly increasing period of time within which persons can take their second dose, as advised by authorities.
In a Letter to the Editor, they referenced a Reuters article wherein it was noted that, amid manufacturing delays of the vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced that “a longer interval between shots provides a stronger immune response”.
Russia’s vaccine roll-out involves giving people the second dose of Sputnik V after 21 days.
However, according to the article: “Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute which developed the vaccine, said in April that the gap between the shots could be increased to 90 days. The RDIF official quoted Gamaleya trials as showing longer gaps had secured a better immune response, but provided no further details of the trials.”
Then, in July, RDIF announced that the gap between the two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine can be extended up to 180 days and it will remain effective.
“These statements made by the RDIF need to be supported by transparent research by independent health authorities. People’s lives are on the line,” the group of Guyanese urged, adding:
“Some of us were lucky to be among the first batch of persons that lined up to get the Sputnik vaccine and had no problems getting the second dose. But we have seen first-hand the frustration of friends and family as they hunt the elusive second dose. The Government of Guyana owes it to the public, particularly those persons that were so proactive in protecting themselves, to fully disclose the reasons behind the delays in the Sputnik second doses, and to develop a clear contingent plan in the face of continued delays.”
The group said that the current trend is to treat COVID-19 deaths as an individual failure, but questions must be asked about who is to be blamed when a person who cannot access their second dose, ends up in the ICU and dies.
President Ali told the media that, despite the delay in second dose Sputnik-V vaccines, he is pleased that some 67 percent of the population has received their first dose while approximately 39 percent are fully vaccinated.