India’s High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu - Photo by Sureash Cholai
India’s High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu - Photo by Sureash Cholai

TT may still get a donation of vaccines from India. However, no specific time frame has been given.

A media release by the Indian High Commission on Sunday said, “Keeping in view the long-standing historical, cultural and people-to-people contacts between India and TT, efforts are being made to supply some vaccines to TT.

“However, no time frame could be indicated at this stage.”

The statement also sought to clarify the timeline of events surrounding the vaccine donations and the role of India’s High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu in it.

The release began by saying that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech last year said his country was ready to mass-produce vaccines when scientists gave the go-ahead.

It added Modi’s speech in September to the 75th UN General Assembly assured the global community that as it was the largest vaccine-producing country in the world, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity would be used to help all of humanity in the covid19 crisis.

The Indian Government began issuing supplies of the Indian-manufactured vaccines after requests from various heads of governments, it said.

It said to date India has supplied vaccines to 72 nations.

On January 19, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wrote to Modi for a donation of vaccines, and a donation of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in that country on February 9.

It said on February 15, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne reached out to Sahu separately to explore the possibility of getting vaccines from India.

It said Sahu conveyed “two clear options” to both. Sahu told them TT can request a donation from the Indian Government, “for which a request at the highest level to Modi might be considered.”

Or TT could have explored a commercial purchase directly from the Serum Institute of India (SII). The release said since it was a commercial deal the Indian Government’s role would be minimal and would only facilitate export approval.

“The relevant TT authority could enter into a commercial agreement with SII. A copy of the deal could be shared with the High Commission so that we could help get expeditious export approval. High Commissioner also made it clear that it will not be easy since there is a tremendous global demand,” the release said.

It added that on February 16, the commission received Browne’s letter to his counterpart India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar “requesting assistance in access for purchase and receipt of 250,000 doses of vaccine from SII.”

Sahu was called to the foreign office for a “quick meeting” on February 23, and he was informed that the institute was not taking any commercial orders at that time, the release said. It added that his assistance was sought in getting some vaccine donations.

It said Sahu suggested even though it was very late, TT could make a request for a donation at a suitable level and said, “given the historical, cultural and friendly relations with the people and government of TT, but subject to domestic demand and other international commitments, we will go an extra mile to make an effort to get some vaccines.”

He was told a letter would be sent.

“It may be mentioned that people of various walks of life meet the High Commissioner to enhance and strengthen economic, trade, cultural, educational and people-to-people contacts between TT and India.

“Professionals in the fields of medicine and healthcare all over the world are well aware of the strength of India in this sector and the latest developments. Many a time, it’s from them that the High Commissioner learns, and not the other way round.

“Likewise, many TT businesses seek High Commissioner’s advice on doing business with India,” it added.

The release said during the pandemic India supplied medicine including hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to 150 countries including TT, Grenada and Dominica.

At its weekly press conference on Sunday, the UNC MP Rodney Charles said a public spat with the representative of one of the world’s largest producers of pharmaceuticals, at this time, was “unwarranted, uncalled for, highly undiplomatic, counterproductive, unnecessary and frankly embarrassing.”

In a televised Conversations with the Prime Minister forum on Thursday, the Prime Minister said he was accused of not moving to get TT’s share of some 500,000 vaccines. Dr Rowley said the Government communicated directly with India and there was no confirmation of 500,000 vaccines being available and TT was not invited to be a part of any free vaccine distribution programme.

He said he had first heard about the vaccines from India from local doctors who were spoken to by the Indian High Commissioner who did not speak to the TT Government. The second time he heard about it was from local businessmen hoping to bring vaccines into TT, the article said.

Contacted yesterday, Browne told Newsday he has asked to meet with Sahu on Monday.

“I would exercise the power of restraint in the interim with respect to any comments on the matter at this time.”



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