Jonathan and Chelsea Joseph after getting the Pfizer vaccine at NAPA, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is concerned that the number of students turning up for the Pfizer vaccine has waned in recent weeks.

Expressing this during Saturday’s virtual media briefing hosted by the Ministry of Health (MOH), he said more adults are taking advantage of the Pfizer vaccine than the children, for whom it was initially intended.

Children between the ages of 12 to 18 years are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the minister, when this phase of the vaccination programme began on August 18, an average of 3,004 children were vaccinated per day. However, recent figures show this has since fallen to an average of 550 per day.

Urging parents to take their children to be vaccinated as the expiry date for this batch of vaccines was fast approaching, he said, “Don’t let the numbers lull us into a sense of complacency. When you look at the results, more adults are taking advantage of the Pfizer vaccine.”

He said parents and children were not taking advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated, and it was evident as the numbers had plummeted to about one-sixth of where they had begun.

Deyalsingh said of the 90,000 school-aged students that are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, it was only 33,540 or just over one-third of this figure, that has so far come forward to be vaccinated with their first dose.

“Of that figure, we have to minus 230 which is the migrant population. Parents and children, we need you all to step up the plate in the coming weeks because your window of opportunity will start to close because of expiry date issues, where we have to administer the first dose by the middle to end of October.”

He warned that we are not out of the woods yet with our children under the ages of 12-19.

Meanwhile, a total of 366 pregnant women have since taken the Pfizer vaccine and 9,011 people have taken the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) one-dose vaccine.

Turning his attention to the low vaccine numbers being recorded in Tobago, he said, “For the Tobago mall yesterday (Friday) to do 12…it speaks to a level of vaccine hesitancy in Tobago that we really need to talk to the persons of Tobago, please come out and get vaccinated.”

He begged for understanding as he added, “The persons who are encouraging you to not get the vaccine, they will not be there for you when you are ill, they will not be providing hospital space and Tobago is already challenged. They will not mind your family if you die. They don’t have your best interest at heart.”

Betting shops to reopen

Announcing the reopening of betting shops under the TT safe zone initiative, Deyalsingh said patrons and employees in this industry will be required to provide proof of vaccination.

With the Bookmakers Association being given permission to reopen in October, he said employers must ensure their staff are vaccinated before reopening.

He said, “I have been authorized by the honourable Prime Minister to say that the following industry will be a part of the TT Safe Zone in October. In addition to the casinos, restaurants and so on, the betting shops under the Bookmakers Association of T&T will be allowed to open when the Prime Minister presses that particular trigger or buzzer under the TT safe zone arrangement.

“We ask persons in those safe zones which are gearing up to be open once numbers look good to get all your employees vaccinated, that is part of the proposal. Everyone working in a racing pool, betting shop, with the Bookmaker’s Association of T&T, please urge your employees to be vaccinated because you would have to provide some sort of proof of vaccination for your employees as we move forward.”