Home Features Vaccine injustice – time has come for Guyana to look to India,...
We are told we would be given financial support for COVID-19 vaccines, but we would benefit only from those vaccines developed in the UK or the US, when developed countries have had their needs met. On the other hand, we are told we must not access vaccines developed in countries such as China, Russia and India. We must note that the vast majority of vaccines developed in the US, the EU and the UK are manufactured in India.
India produces as much as 70% of all vaccines used around the world today, that is why India is called the world’s pharmacy. Like most Guyanese, I want the COVID-19 vaccine now. I do not have a preference for which vaccine I could get; I would willingly take the vaccine developed in the US, the UK, India, China, Russia or Cuba, as long as the evidence of Phase 1 to Phase 3 is published. From what I know, there are COVID vaccines produced in India, China and Russia that are as good as the ones coming from the UK and the US.
It is now public health and scientific wisdom that the COVID-19 vaccine is the only way to stop the SARS-CoV-2 in a short time from now. Without the vaccine, Guyana and the world face a long future of agony, with COVID-19 leaving a long trail of death and destruction. We would win the war against COVID-19, but for us to win in a short period of time, having the COVID-19 vaccine is an imperative.
Vaccines are already available. Thus far, almost 70 million people have received vaccines in 56 countries. Israel has already vaccinated more than 41% of its population, the UAE more than 24%, the UK almost 12%, America just over 7%. Russia, China and India have been vaccinating their population with vaccines developed and made in their own countries, but they have vaccinated less than 1% of their people. Outside of Israel, the UAE, the US, and the UK, none of the 56 countries where people are receiving the vaccines has passed 1%.
In the meanwhile, the people living in almost 150 countries, including every single low-income and low-middle-income country and most of the high middle-income countries, are waiting for arrival of vaccines in their countries. With help from the WHO and GAVI, together with the Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and with more than 160 countries, a global consortium called COVAX was established to ensure that poor countries would not be left behind. COVAX was established to ensure that a significant amount of the vaccines produced and registered and granted emergency use approval (EUA) by one or more of the global Stringent Regulatory Authorities or the WHO would flow at affordable prices to these low income and middle-income countries.
But COVAX has not yet been able to receive and distribute a single dose of vaccine. COVAX is still confident that it would begin distribution sometime after March. But whether it is March or June or sometime later, COVAX is only guaranteeing maximum 20% of the population in these countries by the end of 2021. This is insufficient to stop the death and destruction of COVID-19 in the COVAX countries.
Guyana and many countries around the world must not allow themselves to be victimised. The present situation is one of discrimination, victimisation, and is wholly an injustice. For that reason, Guyana must look outside of its traditional vaccine source. Given that the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca vaccines appear a distance away, and that when these become available for Guyana, we might be able to vaccinate only up to 20% of our people by the end of 2021, the time has come for Guyana to begin looking at the vaccines developed and manufactured in India, Russia and China.
I have been following carefully the development of vaccines in the US, the EU, the UK, India, China, Russia and Cuba. Vaccines have been one of the global best practices, and no medicine or public health intervention, other than potable water, has contributed to global health improvement more than vaccines. For more than 70 years, vaccines have been saving lives and have contributed significantly towards the increase in life expectancies.
For all this times, vaccines have been developed and distributed by countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, other EU countries, India, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Cuba. For more than 70 years, there is no story of any vaccine being marketed by any of these countries that has killed people. Most of the vaccines used in China, Russia and India are made right in those countries.
Guyana has had one of the world’s most successful vaccination programmes. Guyana’s Expanded Program for Immunization use almost 20 different vaccines. Our people must trust our Government to make the right decision. My recommendation to our Government is to look towards the manufacturers that are willing to make their vaccines available as soon as possible. If it is a manufacturer in the USA, great. But if we must access vaccines from Russia, China and India, it is better than having no access.