Jan 21, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Many Guyanese are worried about when this country will get its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines. It does not matter which firm the shipment comes from, be it Pfizer or Moderna or Oxford. All that matters is that we have something that gives us a weapon and some hope in this fight. Anything that provides us with a fair chance of surviving this pandemic, an assault that does not go away but increases in intensity and casualties. We can argue and clash later about equity and fairness in the distribution of the limited number of arriving vaccines, and who got, didn’t get, and should have gotten. What would be encouraging is that there are vaccines, with more promised to come, to help us possibly and instill some confidence in us.
For some time now, India with over a billion people of its own, and double digit millions of confirmed cases, was expected to be in the forefront of a successful vaccine development and release, but it has languished a little behind its richer contemporaries in the West. But now that is of the past, and the country is gearing up to recover the lost time. This is what an online article from Reuters dated January 20 and titled “India, ‘pharmacy of the world,’ starts COVID vaccine exports,” confirmed and announced to a watching and anticipating world. It is a fact that India has deservedly earned that accolade of ‘pharmacy of the world’ and with the COVID-19 pandemic raging even more alarmingly in this feared second wave, it is hoped that the country’s pharmaceutical powerhouses can make good on all that is incorporated in that caption. We, here in Guyana, listen and look on with high hopes.
As reported by Reuters, India has already commenced exportation of vaccines approved under a licence from “Oxford University and AstraZeneca and one developed at home by Bharat Biotech.” India is also expected to give clearance for public distribution and usage of at least two other vaccines in the next few months. This is good news and at a stark and challenging crossroad in the struggle against this diabolical virus. It is already good news for the citizens of Bhutan, which was the first country to receive a shipment of the coveted vaccines from India. Next in line for shipments are “the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and the Seychelles.” And after the necessary regulatory hurdles are scaled, then “Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Mauritius,” are slated to be next in line.
With actions such as these to its strategic partners and surrounding neighbours, India is indeed living up to its well-known reputation for being the ‘pharmacy of the world.’ The shots are branded COVISHIELD and are made by “the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker.” Once this product proves to be successful, and earns a comforting record, it is likely that the Indian laboratory (or laboratories), are going to have to work around the clock to respond to the huge and urgent global needs. It is but one aspect of the Indian authorities push, through what is neatly termed ‘vaccine diplomacy.’
As we wait here, we would like some of that to come our way and as quickly as possible. Our health officials have informed Guyanese that the first shipment of vaccines is expected to be in the second quarter. That looks a little long way off, but we have no choice but to be patient, while observing all the regulations and precautions put in place by this country’s COVID-19 Task Force. All Guyanese must hope that some of India’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’ through its unfolding exports – sure to balloon in weeks to come – will grace these shores and early.
As has been long accepted in this society, there is a close and special relationship between Guyana and India. The thinking of Guyanese authorities and people has to be that this country will feature somewhere in India’s vaccine export plans, and that we are well-positioned to be among the earlier recipients of India’s shipments. As the Reuters coverage pointed out, “Many low and middle-income countries are relying on India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, for supplies to start COVID-19 immunization programmes and bring an end to their outbreaks.” Make no mistake, Guyana numbers among those relying on India’s benevolence and prioritizing of some shots for us. We will take them thankfully.
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