There are some Guyanese students who need to travel to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) for practical components that cannot be done online, but they are unable to do so because the country is only accepting WHO-approved vaccines.
A Guyanese student in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI) is one of those students who needs to travel back to the Twin-Island Republic for practical courses, but is unable to do so because she is vaccinated with the Sputnik V.
When the Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony was engaged on this specific situation during his daily COVID-19 update on Monday he explained that Guyana has not been able to facilitate exemptions for students or others who have a need to travel.
“… many countries have determined their vaccination policy and in a lot of instances, they don’t want to have bilateral negotiations on what they are going to accept or what they are not going to accept,” Dr. Anthony said in response to questions from the News Room.
Earlier this year, the Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley announced that the country would recommence international travel.
He, however, stated that non-nationals seeking to travel to the country must be vaccinated with those COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This issue of the acceptance of some types of vaccines but not others within the Caribbean region has been raised by President Dr. Irfaan Ali.
At a press conference in August, the President firmly stated that the travel of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals within the region should not be constrained by which COVID-19 vaccine an individual took.
Chairman of CARICOM Gaston Browne has also called out countries for placing additional restrictions on vaccinated Caribbean travellers by not recognising some of the vaccines they may have been immunised with.
The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which has been deemed the backbone of Guyana’s COVID-19 vaccination, has not yet received that WHO approval. Dr. Anthony is, however, optimistic that this vaccine will receive its approval shortly and those students will be able to travel for their classes.
“If their principal is that they are using a WHO vaccine, then once the WHO approves it, it becomes acceptable,” Dr. Anthony also said on Monday.
He also related that other countries with vaccination requirements for foreign travellers have allowed people who are vaccinated with those vaccines that have not yet received the necessary approval to enter but quarantine for a period of time.
And he said that such systems are preferable instead of people who need to travel getting revaccinated.
Revaccination is the process of becoming fully vaccinated with another set of vaccines even though an individual is already fully vaccinated with one set of COVID-19 vaccines.
And Dr. Anthony said that some people have been “clamouring” for this so that they would be able to travel more freely.
He said that getting revaccinated is not advisable at this point in time since many people have not yet received a first set of vaccines in the first instance and he said previously it is more important for all people to first access vaccines and become protected from experiencing the more serious and life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19.
He also explained that the potential effects of getting vaccinated again is still unknown. As such, he continues to advise against this.