The vaccine, India & Guyana

Dear Editor,
Guyana is unable to procure enough vaccines for front line workers to combat the virus. India is supplying the world, but Guyana’s request is not being met albeit every country is pleading to India for vaccines. Guyana is getting vaccines from Caricom and WHO and Barbados has been generous to share her vaccines with us.
Country after country is scrambling for vaccine to combat the pandemic that has been the centre of global attention. There is overwhelming demand for vaccines to develop immunity to the virus. The world is turning to India which is now the focus to acquire the anti-Covid vaccine because India is the world’s supplier of vaccines and so many other drugs.
The poor countries, WHO, in particular, are seeking India’s assistance for the vaccine. India is the world pharmacy producing over sixty percent of all vaccines and is currently producing most of the vaccines against the Covid virus including a billion does for the WHO. The Western world and Russia have contracted India to produce the vaccines they discovered. India is also producing two vaccines that local companies discovered. Half a dozen other India discovered Covid vaccines are in final phases of testing and could be ready ending of March. Indian vaccine factories are running around the clock producing over three million doses a day.
It is a mad scramble for vaccines by the world community. The affluent western world, notably the US and Europeans, are focused almost exclusively on producing or paying for the vaccine for their own people. They have virtually no interest or intent, at this time, in procuring vaccines for the people of poor or developing countries. Their priority is their own people. At any rate, the poor nations would find US and European vaccines very difficult to handle because they have to be kept at very low sub-freezing temperatures of almost minus 70 degrees Celsius. Also, Western vaccines are unaffordable, probably costing $20 to $30 a shot that would send poor nations into bankruptcy. Indian vaccines are easy to handle as they can be stored at regular refrigeration and they cost a quarter or a fifth of the above price. And India also gives free vaccines to some poor countries that put in a request. Several countries are recipients of India’s generosity including Barbados and Dominica. And India can meet global demand but it will take at least a year to produce enough vaccines for protection of vulnerable people globally – those with co-morbidities (or underlying conditions) and the aged.
India is facing challenges to vaccinate her own people. Just over a month, India vaccinated ten million front line workers. There is a target to vaccinate 300M Indians by August. But India is also attending to global demands for vaccines making meeting domestic and international demands difficult. Nevertheless, India’s Covid diplomacy is winning plaudits for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been authorizing export of vaccines worldwide to inoculate front line workers. Many of the vaccines are given to poor countries free. After having sent consignments of testing kits, testing machines, personal protection equipment, masks, respirators, and medicines to many countries to help them combat the COVID-19 pandemic from last March to last December, India is now reaching out to them with supplies of vaccines – termed “vaccine diplomacy” with no quid pro quo. It is done for altruistic reasons to save humanity from this dreadful disease.
Poor developing countries have turned to India for her vaccines because they can’t afford the western vaccine and lack the capacity to store it, and they distrust Chinese vaccine. They are turning to India to meet their urgent needs. India has so far sent vaccines to SAARC countries, except Pakistan, which out of pride, has not asked India for help, Caricom countries, OAU, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco, among others. Other countries asked and heir supplies are being organized. India has committed to supplying vaccines to some 100 countries in addition to meeting the request of WHO that has ordered one billion for the poor countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The US had pledged $4B to WHO for purchase of vaccines over the next three years.
If Guyana has not received a commitment to get vaccines from India, a plea should be made. President Irfaan or VP Jagdeo should try to reach PM Modi for his personal intervention for Guyana to secure a consignment of vaccines. India would respond positively.
India must be saluted for her achievements to develop multiple vaccines and for supplying the world to combat this global menace. It is hoped that India will be rewarded with the goodwill of the world at international forums especially on issues affecting her and in gaining support on India’s position on climate change and other global matters.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram