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Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram at the opening ceremony for the T&T Chamber and AmchamTT mass vaccination site, at NAPA in Port-of-Spain.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said it’s no longer a matter of if, but when the Delta variant will arrive in this country.

He made the comment at a media conference to give an update on the Public-Private Vaccination Partnership at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), on Friday.

But the Minister was echoing the words of Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram who said it was only a matter of time before the country gets its first case of the highly transmissible variant, especially with its presence in the Caribbean.

Cases have been confirmed in Barbados, The Cayman Islands and Antigua and Barbuda.

“So the Delta variant is all around us literally… Trinidad has not confirmed the presence as yet,” he said.

However, as the country prepares for this variant the CMO said there was a way out – vaccinations. Dr Parasram said both WHO-approved vaccines administered to citizens, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, are effective against this strain.

“There is a data out of Sri Lanka that supports the use of Sinopharm against Delta variant it actually says that its effect is very good, AstraZeneca there are studies that support 66 per cent and upwards protection,” he said.

He also said that the current protocols put in place for people entering the country which includes a negative PCR test and a vaccination card for fully vaccinated passengers to reduce the risk of the Delta or any other COVID-19 strain from getting in.

But Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said they were not waiting for the first case of the Delta variant to be confirmed to act. He said he chaired a meeting between Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the five Regional Health Authorities on Thursday to prepare.

“What came out of that meeting is border control…PCR testing,” he said.

Vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers

However, officials are concerned about the impact the Delta variant would have on healthcare workers, many of who are unvaccinated.

According to Deyalsingh, he has been working with the President of Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart to get nurses and other healthcare workers vaccinated.

“We are planning a mass vaccination drive for healthcare workers next Friday across all five RHA’s we discussed with the CEOS,” he said.

The Minister said if the Delta variant is here and enters our healthcare system it will collapse.

He said roughly 90 per cent of doctors and physicians are vaccinated but for nurses, it’s at 40 to 50 per cent.

He added while over 300,000 citizens have gotten their first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine it is not cause to celebrate as some people still refuse to get vaccinated.

He asked the unvaccinated and hesitant, “If not vaccines then what?”

Deyalsingh said he met with Communication Minister Symon de Nobriga to discuss an educational campaign for the hesitant and uninformed particularly those in rural communities.

The Minister and his team also toured the NAPA mass vaccination site and thanked everyone for participating.

NAPA is open for walk-ins from the public for 60 days and aims to administer between 1500-3000 jabs a day.