June 19 ,2021
Earlier this week, the Government’s response to the Opposition’s question about the sourcing and price for the Sputnik V vaccine is another reminder how important is Parliament and why this branch (legislature) of government must meet frequently. This is the only branch where all the elected representatives of the people could advance the concerns of the people and hold both the government and opposition accountable to the people.
The revelation that the Government of Guyana is purchasing the Sputnik vaccine at more than twice the price the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests should be the value for the COVID-19 vaccine would understandably raise eyebrows. The cost also questioned what kind of research went into pricing and the availability of vaccines.
Another factor that stands out is the involvement of a third party rather than original sourcing. The government would find it hard to convince that it could not have sourced the vaccine from Russia and instead had to source from the United Arab Emirates. Guyana has long-standing diplomatic and bilateral relations with Russia. Approaching the Government of Russia to purchase the vaccine would therefore have been no challenge.
The WHO is the world’s authorising institution for vaccines. And whilst Guyana should seek to purchase vaccines approved by the WHO, Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony admitted in Parliament that this has not been a easy task and as such they have had to seek out other sources. He noted certain vaccines were not yet approved by PAHO/WHO or had not yet completed clinical trials up to 3-4 months ago.
Sinopharm is one of the vaccines used in Guyana. On 7 May, 2021 the WHO in a news release, “listed the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for this vaccine to be rolled out globally.” AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are WHO approved. The Sputnik V, on the other hand, has not been approved by the WHO.
In April, Brazil rejected importation of the Sputnik vaccine, citing health and safety concerns but this month has voted to import the vaccine in limited doses. The Lancet, the British renowned medical peer review journal, in its 2 February, 2021 publication said, late-stage trial results showed the Sputnik V vaccine is safe and highly effective. Then on 12 May, 2021 another article was published in the same journal expressing that “the interim results of phase 3 trial of the Sputnik V vaccine again raise serious concerns.”
The approved international jury is still out on the Sputnik vaccine. According to Reuters news, (June 4) Russia said they expect the WHO to approve the Sputnik V vaccine within two months. The European Union only three days ago announced it will delay use of the vaccine.
In the meantime, the Government is being urged, once again, to have a national approach in fighting the pandemic. COVID-19 is a national problem and could only be eradicated through national, not partisan approaches. Partisanship is unhealthy in the needed fight against the virus. All should be included in what is evidently a public health crisis.