There is good news ahead for T&T in terms of vaccine acquisition as the next three months should see several hundred thousand doses arriving in the country, leading to an accelerated vaccination programme.
Recapping Government’s efforts to purchase COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility as well as all bi-lateral arrangements and orders placed with the African Medical Council (AMC), the Serum Institute of India (SII) and China, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said on Saturday that following a payment last week to the AMC, “We are in line to get 800,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines.”
Declaring this had changed the picture completely, he said the first batch of this vaccine is expected in August.
Speaking during the media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Rowley said for the next eight weeks, T&T’s vaccination programme would be largely confined to the third tranche of vaccines to be acquired through COVAX, along with a second shipment of the Sinopharm vaccines which are expected on Thursday.
“We can now confidently say that we have a vaccination programme that by the next 12 weeks…June, July, August…depending on the shipping arrangements, we would be able to vaccinate a substantial amount of people,” he said.
“Our first target is a half million people in this country and based on the irons we have in the fire, we can now, as I mentioned last week, accelerate our vaccination programme.”
Calculating the numbers of vaccines expected in the coming weeks, the PM assured, “We can now fairly, reasonably say that we are at the beginning of what is required to bring this infection under control, to have some semblance of normalcy returning to our country and lives.”
It is hoped that by September 1, the country should be in a better position in terms of a vaccinated population.
Commending a handful of US government officials including Vice President Kamala Harris who had been advancing the Caribbean’s position for more vaccines to be made available, Rowley said the US has agreed to make 25 million more vaccines available through COVAX, of which six million will be allocated to the Caribbean and Latin America.
He said the Caribbean and South America were among the worst countries on the receiving end of vaccines right now as there were no vaccine producers in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, Rowley is hoping the accelerated vaccination programme could lead to students being able to return to schools in September as he urged people not to get caught up with vaccine brands and accept what is before them.
Dismissing claims by a businessman that the private sector had acquired a preferred vaccine, imported it into T&T and was dispensing it to only a particular segment of the population, the prime minister defended both himself and the Cabinet.
He said, “The Government has been upfront and with the people with me as Prime Minister leading from the front with the healthcare system standing in the breach day and night for over a year to ensure you get the best outcome in a pandemic.”
Sympathising with the relatives of those who had passed during the pandemic, he called on the private sector to work with the authorities to ensure their employees and loved ones are vaccinated as soon as the opportunity presents.
Moves to replace appointment system with a first-come/first-serve arrangement
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said blocks of 5,000 vaccines each have been made available to people in the construction industry; the manufacturing sector; and supermarkets/pharmacies.
By mid-July, it is expected that 88,900 people would have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine; while an additional 50,000 will receive the Sinopharm vaccine.
Setting up mass vaccination sites to accommodate more citizens from the various sectors, Deyalsingh said 15,000 people from significant industries will soon be among the vaccinated numbers.
Additionally, the ministry has also reached out to the food and beverage sector, as well as the private security to get numbers that can be accommodated in the coming weeks.
Increasing health facilities from 32 to 36 where vaccines are being administered, Deyalsingh said they are moving to replace the appointment system with a first-come/first-serve arrangement.
He said as more and more vaccines become available, the ministry will also be setting up mobile units and drive-thru sites where people can access vaccines.
8 COVID deaths, 391 new cases
The Ministry of Health has recorded eight additional COVID-19 related deaths. The people were four elderly males and three middle-age females with comorbidities, as well as one middle-aged man without comorbidities. This brings the total number of deaths to 564. The Ministry has also recorded 391 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of active cases to 10,064. There are currently 421 patients in the hospital, of which 44 are in HDU and 15 in ICU.