IN the height of hypocrisy, the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, is demanding that the Guyana Government suspends administering Sputnik V vaccines to the people living in Guyana. Mr. Harmon admitted to taking the same Sputnik V vaccine. He stood there admitting taking both does, that he is safe and demonstrating he is healthy. Furthermore, he admitted that several other MPs from APNU+AFC and family members took the Sputnik V vaccine. I also know that they not only took the vaccine, several of them specifically requested that particular vaccine. Yet he hypocritically stood in front of the media and the nation questioning the safety and authenticity of the Sputnik V vaccine. His blue book not only confirms he took the vaccine, it states categorically what batch number is associated with his vaccine and the date of manufacture, etc. He has all the information he needs. If anyone wants to see what a hypocrite looks like, all that person needs to do is watch Harmon, standing there all healthy and safe from COVID-19, telling the Guyanese people they should refrain from taking the vaccine. If there is ever an example of public mischief, this was it.
The President has stated categorically that the Government of Guyana rejects Harmon’s demand to suspend the use of the Sputnik V vaccine. The Ministry of Health, as stated by the Minister of Health several times today, also rejects the call to suspend the vaccination programme. The Ministry of Health will continue to roll out the vaccination programme with all three vaccines in use at the moment – Astra Zeneca, SinoPharm and Sputnik V. His demand is not just hypocritical. It is utterly irresponsible and flagrantly, dangerously reckless. For anyone who does not take the vaccine because they were discouraged by Joseph Harmon, the Leader of the Opposition, must know he has blood on his hands. At a time when a close colleague has recently died, Harmon is shameless in asking his fellow sisters and brothers not to take the vaccine. But having failed in his whisper campaign to stop people from taking the vaccine, he now believes that by deeming the vaccine fake, he will deter Guyanese from taking the vaccine. Just like the whisper campaign was crumbling, so too will this overt effort to derail the vaccination drive.
The vaccine is safe. More than 227,000 Guyanese (48 per cent of the adult population) have taken their first dose. More than 150,000 of these persons have taken the Sputnik V vaccine. Almost 100,000 persons in Guyana (about 20 per cent of the adult population) are fully vaccinated. About 61,000 of these persons are fully vaccinated with Sputnik V. Of the persons with just one dose, a handful would have tested positive for COVID-19, but almost all of them had been infected before they took their first dose. Not a single person with two doses of vaccine has tested positive for COVID-19 so far in Guyana. With this track record, it is only a mischievous, wicked individual who would try a stunt like the one Harmon tried to pull off on Thursday, June 17. It is simply wicked. All Guyana’s vaccines have been registered and approved for use in Guyana by the Guyana Food and Drug Department. The Guyana Food and Drug Department has often depended on Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs), such as the USFDA, the European Medicine Authority. There are thirty-five SRAs in the world. In the absence of approval by an SRA, the Guyana Food and Drug Department has also relied on the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In the absence of approval from one or more SRAs or from the WHO, there are two other mechanisms used to grant approval. One is through approval from CARPHA-CRS. CARPHA utilises the above mechanism or use a number of other reference regulatory authorities. Among those authorities are the Brazilian Medicine Regulator (AVISA) and the Argentine Regulator.
The final mechanism is an independent assessment by the Guyana Food and Drug Department itself.
It should be noted that the absence of approval by one or more of these authorities does not mean a medicine or vaccine has not met the required standards. The developer or manufacturer has to request approval. This is a long and expensive process and some developers will limit how many authorities they will approach.
All the vaccines in use in Guyana have been approved through one or more of the above mechanisms. Every batch of vaccines that are presently used is accompanied by supporting documents, identifying the country of origin, the batch (serial) number, the manufacturer and information about the product. All vials have a bar code that permits tracking directly to its factory.
No fake COVID-19 vaccine has ever entered Guyana. Our regulatory authorities, such as the Food and Drug Department and the Guyana Revenue Authority, have ensured that all COVID-19 vaccines come from legitimate sources. Prior to shipment, the Ministry of Health receives documentation and ensures that the proper import licences are issued.
Mr. Harmon’s assertion that the Sputnik V vaccines are fake vaccines is reckless, absolutely reckless. It is an insult to the hard-working professionals at the Ministry of Health who are responsible for the safe and smooth operation of the vaccine program, the Food and Drug Department, and those from the Guyana revenue Authority (the customs branch).
Since he has alleged there are fake vaccines, he must provide the proof. He must provide evidence or he must shut up. Not only has no fake Sputnik V vaccine been found in Guyana, none have been used anywhere. His assertion about Mexico is another fake story he is trying to gain traction with. There are fake medicines in the world. There might be efforts in Mexico and other countries to get fake vaccines sold.
But Mexico did not fall for the trick. Mexico has signed a contract with Russia to bottle and package Sputnik V vaccines. Mexico has bought 34M doses of Sputnik V vaccines.
Argentina is also manufacturing Sputnik V vaccines. Scientists have shown that Sputnik V vaccines are safe and effective. South Korea, Brazil, India, China are also manufacturing the Sputnik V vaccine. Italy will start manufacturing Sputnik V vaccines in July.
In a joint study done between the RDIF (Russian Direct Investment Fund) and scientists in Argentina, it was found the Sputnik V is not only effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19 VIRUS), but also against the P1 (Brazilian) variant. The so called Brazilian variant has proven to be a deadlier virus. But Sputnik V is effective against this variant. The Argentina-based study, carried out by the Dr. Vanella Institute of Virology of the National University of Córdoba (UNC), found a strong immune response against the variant in those vaccinated with Sputnik V. Now UNICEF has signed a contract to procure 220M doses of Sputnik V for global distribution. Mr. Harmon should be ashamed of himself.