GUYANA and several other Caribbean countries will benefit from an initial donation of 500,000 Oxford-Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccines by the Government of India, as the South-Asian country ‘ups the ante’ on its vaccine-diplomacy efforts.
On Monday, during a virtual engagement with members of the media, Indian High Commissioner to Guyana Dr K. J. Srinivasa noted that a quantity of these COVID-19 vaccines are already being transported to Caribbean islands; Barbados and Dominica. These countries, he explained, were among the first to engage India on securing vaccines.
“I am working closely for the number of COVID-19 vaccines for Guyana, Antigua, St Kitts and many other countries in the region,” Dr Srinivasa highlighted.
Currently, the High Commission is working with the local health authorities to get approval for this Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, which is called Covishield in India. And Dr Srinivasa also highlighted that information on the quota of vaccines Guyana will receive should be made known in a “couple of days.”
The Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is reportedly 62 per cent effective. However, it is also reportedly 90 per cent effective with a lower dose than the required two doses.
The High Commissioner, who is also India’s representative to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that India is trying to work out a common procedure whereby the Caribbean countries can work in tandem for this approval process.
While the 500,000 vaccines being donated to the Caribbean is just an initial amount, Dr Srinivasa emphasised that India wants to provide some support to all of the “friendly countries” in the Region. This, he explained, is a core component of India’s vaccine- diplomacy efforts.
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PHARMACY OF THE WORLD
India is a renowned manufacturer of vaccines and has been dubbed the ‘pharmacy of the world.’ Beyond the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, which is being manufactured by the Serum Institute in India and is already being distributed in that country, there are about five other vaccines being developed in India.
The Covaxin vaccine, being manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), is one such vaccine. This vaccine has already been granted emergency-use authorisation in India and is being distributed to health workers, though its clinical trials are not yet complete.
Obtaining vaccines from this country is not limited to those doses being donated, however. There are also avenues for governments to purchase vaccines from India.
“Our external supplies which are either gifts or commercial supplies are based on our domestic requirements, but we continue to work closely with our partner countries and we are preparing a schedule [whereby] in the coming weeks and months in a phased manner, these countries will get their vaccines,” Dr Srinivasa said.
The country has been donating several million vaccines to a number of countries as of this year.
Read more: Guyana Chronical