Govt made right decision in Sputnik V vaccine purchase – Harmon now admits

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon has now admitted that the authenticity of the Sputnik V vaccines that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government procured for emergency use, is not in question.

Harmon on Monday made a complete U-turn from his posture last week and said it can be “reasonably presumed” that the Sputnik V vaccines that were procured are authentic. 

“For me, it is not so much an issue of the authenticity of the Sputnik V vaccine.”

He also acknowledged that vaccine scarcity was a problem and that the PPP Government, like any Government would, found itself in a difficult position when it came to procuring vaccines.

According to him, if the coalition Government was in the PPP’s shoes it would have been “equally desperate” to secure the vaccines. 

“It is common public knowledge that there is vaccine scarcity globally and it is exceedingly difficult for small states, such as ours, to access vaccines. He [the Health Minister] offered this, at least in part, as the reason why his Administration opted to purchase billions of dollars of Sputnik V vaccines from Sheik Dalmook Al Maktoum.”

“It is entirely understandable that the PPP Administration found itself in a difficult situation, as any Government would have been, in attempting to secure vaccines for Guyanese,” Harmon said in his statement.

According to the Opposition Leader, his concern only lies with whether the vaccines were handled with proper care and attention, prior to the Government uplifting them from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

“The greater concern for me, is whether the Sputnik V vaccines sold by the Sheik to Guyana were stored, at all material times, and transported from wherever they were stored to Guyana under the strict and demanding standards for their storage and transportation,” he said.

“COVID vaccine storage has been a key issue from the time the first vaccines were developed. Most COVID vaccines, including Sputnik V, must be stored at an extremely cold temperature well below zero degree.” 

Even as Harmon speculates, the Medical Council of Guyana on Saturday endorsed all vaccines currently being used locally to protect against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) including Sputnik, underlining that there have been no overwhelming adverse effects worldwide from these jabs.

On Saturday, the Council stressed that this specific vaccine was the first to be registered and while it is awaiting official approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the data surrounding its use is reassuring. In fact, with the use of Sputnik V in a whopping 74 nations around the world, the organisation declared that there is no doubt it will be given approval from the WHO.

“There is no reason to expect denial of approval for this vaccine from the WHO and other authorities in the coming weeks. This is the same process that has occurred with all of the other available vaccines prior to WHO approval where countries have adopted a policy of “USE” pending approval after careful evaluation by their own technical team,” a section of the statement highlights.

The Medical Council noted that Guyana and its neighbours have the requisite technical expertise to analyse scientific data and make appropriate recommendations to policymakers. This was the basis for using the various vaccines in Guyana – independent technical analysis of risk versus benefits.

The statement further clarified, “All of the vaccines available in Guyana, including the Sputnik V, have a 100 per cent record in preventing severe COVID-19 infection defined as admission to ICU, needing ventilatory support or death. In fact, none of the 442 deaths recorded in Guyana were seen in fully (2 doses) vaccinated persons. There have been no overwhelming adverse events reported worldwide for any of the vaccines used in Guyana to date.”

Every adult is eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Guyana, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Persons with a history of severe allergic reactions should seek medical advice before considering the vaccines and are the only group who may not be medically suitable.