The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has ordered 50,000 doses of the Russia-developed Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine, as Vincentians continue to refuse to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
Thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are at risk of expiring at the end of this month, and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said last week that he will give them to other Caribbean countries that want them.
He said that the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache had told him that people are requesting the Russian jab, which he, the CMO and other senior officials took.
“… I am going further and asking you, pleading with you to take the vaccine. It is important to your health. We have only had 13% of the population who are vaccinated,” Gonsalves said on radio last week as the country recorded it 11th COVID-19 death.
“I know that some persons have some queries about the AstraZeneca vaccine but all the scientific reports would tell you with crystal clarity that any risk involved with AstraZeneca are minimal and the benefits are huge for any of these vaccines,” the prime minister said.
“They reduce, markedly, transmission, they reduce the possibility, very significantly, of you getting seriously ill and, certainly, reduce the prospect, immensely of you dying with COVID, so I am urging.”
He said that the CMO has told him that there are a lot of people who say that they would take the Sputnik-V.
“Some of them say they want to take the Sputnik, which she took, which Roger (Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Roger Duncan) took, which Comrade Ralph took.
“Well, if that is true, remember I had written the Russian authorities in relation to the Sputnik and we have received an offer to purchase, well they have sent a draft contract for us to purchase 50,000 treatments. That is to say both components, the first and second jab,” the prime minister said.
Gonsalves said there is, however, an element of the contract that the CMO has to clarify with the Russian authorities.
“… not about the vaccine itself, about the contractual terms and while she had done that, the AGs’ chambers will be looking at the document,” the prime minister said, adding that he would contact the Russian ambassador in relation to the deal.
“But the AstraZeneca which we have, we have to bear in mind that they expire toward the end of May, between the 27th and 30th of May. So we have made the decision that at a particular point in time, we will give other Caribbean countries doses of AstraZeneca if they want them.
“And at least one country, I have been advised, has indicated that it may wish to get some of them. But I just wanted to say we are at the stage now, we are on the verge of getting the 50,000 treatments for the Sputnik doses one and does 2,” he said.