St. Vincent PM Giving Russian COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Prayerful Consideration’

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will soon decide whether he will take the Russia-developed Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, 20 doses of which have been given to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Dr. Gonsalves, 76, told Parliament during the budget debate on Thursday that he had been giving the matter “prayerful consideration”, but did not want to appear to have jumped the queue.

Among the persons who are said to have taken the jab are Medical Officer of Health Dr. Roger Duncan and fellow physician and infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jerrol Thompson, who served as Science and Technology Minister for two terms under Dr. Gonsalves’ administration.

The Prime Minister said he was still considering whether or not to take the shot.

“I am pondering, myself, to take it. I will tell you the two sides of the question I am wondering about. My first instinct was not to take it because I don’t want it to be said that ‘20 vaccines come from Sputnik [and] Ralph gone and put himself in the queue’, even though, given my age, I would be one who would be among persons may be considered should take,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the feedback he had received from journalists with whom he had discussed the matter was that people would only take a vaccine, either Sputnik or any other, if they saw him taking it.

“This morning, I have been giving it prayerful consideration and I will sleep on it tonight again, and if tomorrow morning it comes to me that I should take it, in a positive sign, I will take it, because I understand that persons want to see the prime minister take the vaccine,” he told Parliament.

The BBC has reported that late-stage trial results published in The Lancet, a reputed medical journal in the UK, reveal that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine gives around 92 percent protection against COVID-19.

It has also been deemed to be safe and offer complete protection against hospitalization and death. Although it was initially met with some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released, scientists have said its benefit has now been demonstrated and Sputnik V now joins the ranks of proven vaccines alongside Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen, BBC said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gonsalves said that SVG is getting 45,600 vaccines for 20 percent of the population from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility. The first tranche will be a quarter of the total amount and should arrive by the end of February.

“…And I feel that this 45,600 we may get in dribs and drabs over the years, so we have to look elsewhere,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

Against that background, the Prime Minister has authorized the chairperson of the Mustique Charitable Trust (MTC), Dora Lowenstein, who has been in close contact with the persons at AstraZeneca at Oxford University, to purchase vaccines for SVG.

Dr. Gonsalves said that SVG would also receive from someone, whom he did not identify, 6,000 Sputnik vaccines, which would be for 3,000 persons.

“But we are also making arrangements to put in an order for the Russian vaccine for 70,000 persons,” he said. “The WHO is in pre-authorization discussion with the epidemiological institute in Moscow on this vaccine.”

“And there is also the African medical supplies platform, in which we are on,” Dr. Gonsalves added. “They are ordering in bulk and the Caribbean region is the sixth region of Africa … and they are putting aside 1.5 million vaccines for CARICOM, of which we will get 21,888 and we have to prepare for those when they are ready.”

The Vincentian leader added that the country is getting a US$200,000 grant from the ALBA Bank, which is setting up a rolling vaccine bank of US$1 million.




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