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Guyana’s Sputnik V vaccine purchases not from anyone in legal problems- Health Ministry tells Harmon

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 June 2021, 21:34 by Denis Chabrol

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday night sought to assure Guyanese that it did not buy the more than GYD$1 billion worth of  Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines from anyone facing legal troubles, adding that it had no apologies for buying the jabs at US$22 per dose.

“At no time did Guyana procure vaccines from any illegal entity or anyone in trouble with legal authorities anywhere. At no time did Guyana access vaccines secretly from anyone,” the Health Ministry said in a statement in response to a call by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon to defend the purchase. Further, the government said the vaccines were not purchased from anyone with criminal connections.

“Guyana has not procured vaccines from any illegal source as far as Mr. Harmon’s claim that the  Government procured vaccines from any international fraudster; this is blatantly false. We are not aware of, have not seen any evidence, and none was presented by the Leader of the Opposition, or any other person or entities, that show Sheik Al Maktoum is an international fraudster or wanted in any country,” the ministry said.

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony on Tuesday night for the first time, in response to opposition questions in the National Assembly, announced that the Sputnik V vaccines were being purchased from Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum  of the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Harmon relied heavily on a Norwegian publication that reported that Al Maktoum and Norwegian Per Morten Hansen, accused financial crimes, have been selling countries like Ghana and Guyana the vaccines, Mr, Hansen has denied being part of any such vaccine deals.

The Health Ministry countered, saying that even at a higher price, the Guyana government did nothing wrong to buy vaccines to protect its residents from the coronavirus. “It was a good investment for our people at the time. It remains a good investment at this time. The Ministry of Health has no apologies in this regard,” the government said.

On whether the deal was transparent, the Ministry of Health said all of the documentation is there to prove that there was no shady transaction and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board was involved. “The Ministry of Health has followed the SOPs for procurement, always obtaining NPTAB approval for procurement. In terms of the single-sourcing of vaccines, there is no availability from different sources that permit open tendering,” the Ministry said.

The Health Ministry said government wants to vaccinate all Guyanese against the coronavirus by the end of this year, and in this regard opted to buy most of its vaccines because Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson could not have supplied Guyana readily.

As of June 15, 2021, Guyana has vaccinated 223,659 persons or 46% of the adult population with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Guyana has also fully vaccinated 92,157 persons  17% of the adult population against COVID-19.

According to the Health Ministry, Guyana is ranked as the country with the most vaccination in CARICOM, ahead of all countries in this region with populations above 600,000 people.

The Opposition Leader was chided for attempting to derail the COVID-19 vaccination programme by making false claims about the acquisition of the Russia-made COVID vaccines.