Photo by Hakan Nural
The Government of Grenada and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) have signed a collaboration agreement which, in part, will facilitate the registration and distribution of Russia’s Sputnik V Coronavirus vaccine across CARICOM.
The announcement comes as concern continues about the slow arrival of vaccines through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility and from other suppliers.
According to the Facebook page of Grenada’s Embassy in Moscow, the agreement was signed by Grenada’s Ministry of Health, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (the RDIF), and the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology for SARS-Cov-2. Under the arrangement, Grenada will serve as the local centralised distribution point for the region, undertake the logistics and seek the regulatory approval needed for the vaccine.
According to the medical journal The Lancet, the Sputnik V vaccine has a near 92% efficacy, uses two different vectors for the two shots of the vaccination, and reportedly also provides immunity longer than vaccines with the same delivery mechanism. Since February 2021, it has been administered outside Russia in Argentina, Hungary, Bolivia, Algeria, Montenegro, Paraguay, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
No details were given as to the likely cost to recipient Caribbean Governments. It was initially regarded with suspicion when President Putin announced its approval for use in August 2020, before phase I or II data had been published and before the phase III trial had begun.
In a statement, Oleg Firer, Grenada’s Ambassador in Moscow, said that the agreement will help the CARICOM population obtain access to a coronavirus vaccine. Grenada is the only Caribbean nation other than Cuba and the Dominican Republic with a full Embassy in Russia.
The announcement comes as Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has written to US President, Joe Biden, requesting that CARICOM be supplied with some of the 4m AstraZeneca vaccines the US Government is providing to Canada and Mexico.
In his letter, Browne pointed out that the Caribbean is the third border of the US, and that the region was among the worst affected by the pandemic.
“The vulnerability of states must become an important criterion in the provision of vaccines, and the Caribbean region is among the most vulnerable in the world,” he wrote, noting that CARICOM economies have shrunk by up to 30%; unemployment has risen to over 50% in some nations; and revenues have declined precipitously.
Browne also noted that “if these conditions are not addressed soon, we face a crumbling of our security systems from which drug traffickers, money launderers, people traffickers, and organised crime will take advantage to the detriment of our countries and of the US”.
The new Russian arrangement and Prime Minister Browne’s expression of concern coincides with a warning to the US Senate Armed Services Committee by the Head of Southern Command, Admiral Faller that US influence in the region is eroding, and Russia and China are using the pandemic to expand what he described as their “corrosive, insidious influence” in the Caribbean Central and South America.
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