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Emergency authorisation given for use of COVID-19 vaccines in SVG

Emergency authorisation given for use of COVID-19 vaccines in SVG
Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister

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Emergency authorisation has been given to facilitate the use of six of the existing COVID-19 vaccines in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This has been done under the emergency provisions under the Public Health Act, which was amended by Parliament on April 7, 2020.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was speaking on NBC Radio this week when he listed the vaccines that have been given authorisation: Pfizer, Oxford AstraZeneca, Covishield (Indian) AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and Sputnik V.
Several other COVID-19 vaccines are still in the development stages, including Covaxin, which was developed by Indian scientists and Cuba’s Sovereign.

Gonsalves noted however, that emergency authorisation will not be granted to these until the third stage of trials conclude later this year.

“I spoke yesterday to the Indian High Commissioner for St Vincent and the Grenadines who resides in Suriname, about the Covaxin…so when those are done, we will follow through but we have an interest in it once all the tests go well,” the prime minister said.

SVG received 5000 of the Covishield (Indian) AstraZeneca vaccine last week from Dominica, which it has used to kickstart a nationwide vaccination drive.

Persons in the priority groups, along with other volunteers, were able to receive the first dose of the vaccine. The second booster shot is expected to be administered in six weeks time.

Gonsalves said that in addition to those vaccines received on February 11, India’s Prime Minister, Nahrendra Modi has also approved a grant of 40,000 Covishield vaccines for SVG.

Other CARICOM countries are also expected to receive vaccines to inoculate members of their population as well.

The Vincentian prime minister said on radio that he is coordinating with other prime ministers in the region to charter a plane and share the cost of transporting those vaccines to the region.

Many believe that the vaccine is one of the most efficient ways of combating the COVID-19 pandemic and countries are trying their hardest to acquire the jabs for their population, in order to achieve herd immunity.

Regional reports indicated that as at February 16, Barbados had vaccinated 6665 persons since receiving the Covishield (Indian) AstraZeneca vaccine a week earlier.

In the United Kingdom, at least 15 million people have already received the first dose of the vaccine in what is likely to be the largest inoculation programme the country has ever launched.

That figure accounts for over 20 per cent of the UK population.

Russia, the developers of the Sputnik V has also made some progress, vaccinating about two per cent of their population.

SVG’s prime minister, while speaking on radio on Wednesday, restated the various plans in place to acquire vaccines for this country.

“A tremendous amount of work is being done… while we are lining up the vaccines, from all the supplies that we are doing, we will have more vaccines than we actually will need but the point is this, we can procure them as we require over a longer period because these vaccines will have the efficacy for about a year,” he said.

Gonsalves, who received his first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine more than a week ago, said he has spoken with the Russian ambassador in relation to acquiring vaccines through two channels.

One such channel is through an intermediary, who is in contact with the Russian Sovereign Fund – the entity which financed research and production of the vaccine.

Another is through state channels by way of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.

“I made the request for vaccines to do up to 70,000 people,” he said on radio.

Gonsalves has also authorised the Mustique Charitable Trust to acquire up to 100,000 of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

He also anticipates that SVG will receive the first batch of the 46,500 vaccines from the COVAX facility by the end of the first quarter of this year.

There are a number of other avenues being explored to acquire COVID-19 vaccines for the Vincentian population. Health authorities are aiming to inoculate at least 10,700 Vincentians during this phase of the vaccination drive.

Persons interested in being vaccinated should submit the necessary information; name, address, age, gender and contact number to [email protected]