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The Ministry of Health’s primary goal for its deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available would not be to generate herd immunity.

Speaking during the ministry’s virtual press conference yesterday, technical director of the Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds said: “The strategy with the vaccine is really to do two things; protect the vulnerable i e the individuals who may have an increased risk of an adverse outcome because of pre-existing conditions and protect those who are high risk of exposure- frontline staff at hospitals and in other agencies and settings where there is a lot of forward-facing and front-facing staff. People that are going to interact with, large volumes of people passing through their system.”

Dr Hinds said they hope this approach would help reduce the incidence of superspreader events and adverse outcomes.

“It’s going to support the testing, the tracing, the isolation and quarantine and it’s going to support the measures that we all take as individuals…it’s another layer (of protection)”

This is why he said it would not in any way replace the need for citizens to adhere to the proper health protocol to protect themselves from contracting the infection.

During his contribution to the budget debate in parliament on October 9, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that government has indicated to COVAX that it would like enough vaccines to cover 33 per cent of the population. However, due to the facility’s model, the country would receive enough for 20 per cent in a first batch and the remaining 13 per cent in a second batch.

Herd immunity occurs when enough of a population is vaccinated that a virus is unable to move through it due to the scarcity of hosts. However, in order for this to occur, a certain number of people need to be immune to the virus and is referred to as the herd immunity threshold. Due to the novel nature of the COVID-19 virus and the absence of a working vaccine, there isn’t an exact number yet as to what that threshold would be for COVID-19.