— preliminary study finds, even as Harmon maintains suspension call against Sputnik V vaccine
THE Ministry of Health said Thursday that based on the recent findings of a preliminary study done here, the Afro-Guyanese community accounts for the largest demographic of COVID-19 fatalities, pegged at 36.6 per cent.
Coming a close second at 28.2 per cent is the Amerindian community, followed by the Indo-Guyanese community at 23.3 per cent. Bringing up the rear at a mere 11.4 per cent are those persons classified as mixed race.
The foregoing conclusion, the ministry said, was drawn after a preliminary analysis was done on 202 of the 458 persons that have died here so far since the virus was first discovered on these shores.
Other statistics from the study also show that an overwhelming majority of those who died while in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) had not received any of the COVID-19 vaccines being offered here.
What first aroused their curiosity, the Health Ministry said, was the “slight reduction” in the number of persons taking their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. And the obvious conclusion was that the decline had to do with the recent floods; but now that the floodwaters have begun to recede, and vaccination rates are still noticeably down, they have no alternative but to reassess the situation.
During a press conference he hosted on June 17, Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon called on the government to suspend administering the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, claiming that it could be “fake.” He also seized the opportunity during the said press conference to dissuade persons from taking either of the vaccines, in keeping with his preposterous claims, but the irony of it all was that he had already had both of his ‘shots’, and as such has been fully immunised against the deadly virus.
Several government officials and members of the private sector have since called out Harmon for his claims, which they believe are politically motivated.
The opposition leader’s utterances also drew a stern response from President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who, in a special broadcast to the nation on the evening of the said June 17, condemned 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 life-saving vaccines; fortunately, Guyana is one of the few nations that have been able to acquire enough vaccines to sufficiently immunise its entire adult population.
President Ali spared no effort 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 Harmon’s duplicity. “He himself took the Sputnik vaccine,” Dr. Ali said, adding: “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.”
On June 22, the Ministry of Health released a document from Director-General of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIV), Alexander Chistyakov, dismissing Harmon’s claims that the COVID-19 vaccines entering Guyana from Russia could be inauthentic.
The document, in the form of a letter issued by Chistyakov, head of the Human Vaccine Limited Liability Company (LLC), which is a subsidiary of the RDIF, confirmed the authenticity of the shipments of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines sold to Guyana by an authorised company called Aurugulf, by providing batch numbers, certificate of analysis, and the packing list, along with the vaccine shipments.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony has noted that while persons all across the country have become hesitant about taking the vaccines, the ministry intends to continue on its aggressive drive to get people vaccinated.
He noted that the ministry plans to continue engaging persons through the use of innovative initiatives, such as the recently launched ‘drive-thru’ vaccination campaign which has had significant success in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
“We are getting closer to herd immunity; we estimate that we will have to get at least 80 per cent of our adult population vaccinated with both doses, so this is a step in the right direction,” Dr. Anthony said, adding: “We’re now at approximately 21 per cent; we still have a far way to go, but I think if we work with people and get them to come and get both doses, Guyana would be much better off.”
In closing, Minister Anthony encouraged persons to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, noting that in the past few months, the number of hospitalisations has been on a steady increase. The health minister reminded persons that the COVID-19 vaccinations could significantly reduce their chances of serious complications, if they were to come into contact with and contract the COVID-19 virus.