— President Ali ‘shuts down’ Harmon’s call to suspend Sputnik V
— Harmon admits to taking both doses of vaccine
— his suspension call comes days after party comrade died from COVID-19
EVEN after becoming fully immunised against the deadly coronavirus, Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, has called for a suspension in the administering of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. Without evidence, the Member of Parliament on Thursday hosted a press conference to express his belief that the drug could be fake and proceeded to encourage Guyanese not to take it. Harmon’s call has since attracted a myriad of criticisms from various sections of society, including respected doctors and leading private sector groups. More prominently, however, the Opposition Leader’s utterances received a stern response from President, Dr. Irfaan Ali.
In a special broadcast message issued on Thursday evening, the Head of State described Harmon’s move as “shamefully reckless, selfish, and against the interest of Guyana and Guyanese”.
As the world continues to grapple with the devastating effects of the deadly coronavirus, almost every country has been working overtime to acquire the lifesaving vaccines; fortunately, Guyana is one of the few nations that have been able to acquire enough vaccines to sufficiently immunise its entire adult population.
This has been hailed as a major win for the 10-month-old People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, and President Ali speared no efforts in reprimanding Harmon for playing with people’s lives, and for using the country’s efficient vaccination efforts as a political football. “Countries are fighting desperately to get these vaccines; these vaccines are not easily procured; we have tried every single measure, and for Mr. Harmon to discredit those efforts; for Mr. Harmon to try to dissuade Guyanese at this important public health juncture of our country is reckless and shameful,” President Ali posited, as he proceeded to highlight the irony of Harmon’s call. “[He] himself took the sputnik vaccine,” Dr. Ali highlighted. He added, “There’s a limit to which one’s selfishness can go; in this case, the limit must be to issue a statement that put the lives of Guyanese families and communities at risk. That is what Mr. Harmon has done.” Initially, the majority A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Opposition utilised a recent sitting of the National Assembly to raise questions as to why the government procured vaccines at US$22 per dose when they could have possibly gotten it at US$10 per dose.
Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony had then invited Harmon to point the government in the direction of cheaper vaccines, but no response was given.
An increased price for the vaccines has been widely attributed to global shortages, and the fact that all countries have been scouring to secure enough jabs for their people.
President Ali pointed to the fact that his government had approached every single vaccine developer, manufacturer and country, before it was finally able to procure the lifesaving injections.
“[There is] no cost to protecting the lives of Guyanese; that is my only interest,” Dr. Ali asserted.
In relation to persons questioning the effectiveness of the Sputnik V vaccines, the Head of State reminded that the drug is being used in more than 74 countries worldwide, and that it carries an efficacy rate that is beyond 97 per cent. “This government is going to ensure that we exhaust all avenues for vaccines; that position would not change,” President Ali noted.
As it relates to criticisms of Sputnik V still awaiting approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Ali reminded that most of the countries across the world had begun to use almost all of the other vaccines even before the WHO had given its approved.
“All the scientific literature tells you how important vaccination is,” the President reminded.
HAS TO COMPLY FULLY
Responding directly to Harmon’s assertions that the vaccines could possible be fake, Dr. Ali stated that “Every single shipment of Sputnik V vaccine comes with batch numbers and serial numbers. Before it is administered, it has to comply fully, with the local regulatory approval system that can be matched to the manufacturers’ data.”
President Ali further criticised Harmon for urging Guyanese not to become vaccinated, especially given the fact that his party has already lost one of its members to the virus.
“I call on Guyanese to heed the calls of the Ministry of Health and the call of scientists and doctors, and get vaccinated,” President Ali urged.
Meanwhile, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) issued a statement commending the government’s vaccination efforts, and condemning Harmon’s call for a suspension. The private sector agency sees Harmon’s call as being “utterly reprehensible, callous and irresponsible” and geared at scoring cheap political points.
“The GCCI would like to put on public record that it finds the statements regarding ‘fake vaccines’ made by the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, to be unwarranted, reckless and not based in fact – especially in light of the current public health situation of Guyana,” the reputable body noted.
It also cautioned the government to remain transparent and accountable in all dealings with the ongoing vaccination drive, reiterating its willingness to provide whatever support it can, as a means of ensuring that all Guyanese are protected by way of vaccination from the novel coronavirus.
Notwithstanding the Opposition’s criticisms, President Ali said that the government will continue its roll out of the Sputnik V and other vaccines, as they become available. “Vaccination is essential to flight COVID,” the Head of State maintained.