Jan 26, 2021 Letters
I agree with views expressed in two letters (Jan 23, 24) that Guyana should approach the government of India for a grant for anti Covid vaccines and to purchase the rest needed to immunize our population. India has been donating vaccines to virtually every country that requested it. It is part of India’s new diplomacy effort to strengthen relations with countries and regions by making vaccines available to them. The wealthy White countries have not been donating vaccines to the poor developing countries. They don’t have enough for themselves and as such cannot make vaccines available to other countries.
India has been shipping anti Covid vaccines to her neighbours and countries around the globe in what is described as “Covine Diplomacy” as India seeks to bolster relations with countries in the greater South Asian region and around the globe. Country after country has approached the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleading for vaccines. Countries or governments that were known to be hostile to India and Indians settled there have approached India for help. India has responded positively though not providing the amount requested. India has to supply the globe with vaccines plus inoculate her own population of almost 1.4 billion. Thus, the Indian government offered varied amounts of free vaccines depending on population size.
India rolled out her vaccine a week ago and has vaccinated almost two million people. India has donated millions of doses gratis and shipped them on state owned carrier Air India that has been delivering vaccines globally. The carrier was due to be privatized last April but Covid prevented completion of a deal. Air India is now saving humanity transporting vaccines and virtually for free and Indian government expense. The carrier has also been transporting millions of Indians stranded around the globe.
The company that manufactures the vaccines in India sell them commercially to the Indian government and to other nations. One of the companies is funded by the Indian government. Each vaccine dose costs $4, about a tenth of the cost of vaccines made in the US, UK, and Europe. India gives her neighbours the vaccines for free and also to several other countries including in South America. In addition, some countries have purchased vaccines. Brazil got two million doses. Barbados and Dominica have asked PM Modi for some free vaccines and offered to pay for the rest enough to vaccinate their population. There is no reason why Guyana cannot do the same.
India has two vaccines in the market — AstraZeneca that makes Covishield and Covaxin. Both are safe. Six other vaccines are in the pipeline and should be ready in another month — undergoing final phase of human trial for efficacy. India’s drug regulator has given the green light to Covishield (the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK) and Covaxin, locally-made by pharma company Bharat Biotech. That company exports various vaccines to 123 countries.
India is a vaccine powerhouse producing 60% of the world’s vaccines and is home to half a dozen major European and American manufacturers.
India’s two vaccines can be stored at regular fridge temperatures. European and American vaccines must be stored at temperatures of between minus 20 and 70 degrees Celsius. Poor countries lack the capacity to store vaccines at such low temperatures.
The companies that make the two vaccines expect to produce between 600 and 700 M doses this year. They have received order of over one billion doses for this year and the orders keep piling up. For maximum efficacy, two doses are needed. A new factory that was being set up to romp up production of more vaccines was destroyed in a fire a few days ago. Additional production would be affected in the short term. But there is enough vaccines to inoculate the aged and vulnerable in the short term as the world awaits production. Guyana can request India for tens of thousands for the vulnerable among us.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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