People wait in line to receive their second jabs of the COVID-19 vaccine at SAPA, San Fernando, on Thursday.

The country will receive a substantial shipment of vaccines starting next week, according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

At yesterday’s COVID-19 new conference, the prime minister said the fairly large shipment of vaccines will allow the Ministry of Health to embark on a ramped-up vaccination programme.

According to Dr Rowley, the country is expected to receive a shipment of Sinopharm vaccines as part of the agreement with the Chinese government next week.

Additionally, Dr Rowley said, the first shipment of vaccines as part of an agreement with the African Medical Supplies Platform will be arriving earlier, also in July.

“During this month of July, we are expecting an improvement in the forecast we have made,” Dr Rowley said.

“The first shipment to Caricom (from the African Medical Supplies Platform) would be here not in August, but in July. So, towards the middle of July, we expect to get a first shipment to Caricom—approximately 800,000 doses. Trinidad and Tobago is expected to get just under 200,000 of it. We expect to get another 400,000 in August and another 500,000 in September for Caricom.”

The third COVAX shipment was delayed until August.

The prime minister was unable, however, to provide an update on the expected donation from the United States government.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said his ministry will use the expected shipments to ramp up vaccinations, aiming to vaccinate about 300,000 people in ‘the shortest possible space of time.’

Minister Deyalsingh said there will be a specialized plan to vaccinate employees of many sectors.

The National Security Ministry will receive 6,000 doses to vaccinate 3,000 prisoners, prison staff members and immigration personnel.

Transportation workers, including maxi and taxi drivers­—5,000, the agricultural sector­—10,000, teachers—5,000, other ministries —20,000, The food and beverage sector—20,000, Janitorial staff —5,000, Tertiary education institutions—20,000, Religious clergy —2,000, Banks and Credit Unions—5,000, Supermarkets and Distributors—15,000, Pharmacy workers—2,000, Manufacturing— 5,000, The Diabetes Association and Coalition of Non-Communicable Diseases—5000, Construction—10,000, Special Groups, including persons with physical and mental disabilities, the visually-impaired etc—2,000, Funeral homes—500 to 1,000.

To make the vaccination drive possible, Minister Deyalsingh said the ministry will partner with the private sector.

“We are going to deepen our relationship with our private sector by bringing in six new mass vaccination sites,” Minister Deyalsingh said.

The new mass vaccination sites for this specialised drive will be located at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex, NAPA, in Tunapuna, UTT’s Corinth Campus in St Madeleine, the Penal Powergen Station, and the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce Building.

These will complement the pre-existing Divali Nagar site, as well as the Supermarket Association’s site in Chaguanas.

Minister Deyalsingh said they will partner specifically with Rotary Clubs and the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce.

“They will help us with matters like IT (Information Technology), data entry and so on,” Minister Deyalsingh said.

In addition, Tobago will receive 10,000 doses.

The minister also revealed that the vaccination drive for people, outside of the sectors mentioned above, will be ramped up.

All of the country’s 109 Regional Health Authority centres will receive vaccines.

“As we add all 109 health centres for the first time, we are adding 64 sentinel physicians. These are private practitioners who work with the Ministry of Health to monitor and administer vaccines in our current vaccination drive…there are about seven (physicians) per country” the Health Minister said.

The 64 sentinel physicians will receive 15,000 vaccines as part of the drive.

As of Saturday morning, 219,763 people received their first doses, while 105,586 people were fully vaccinated.

Minister Deyalsingh expressed concern about the number of vaccinated health care workers, saying that around 50 per cent were vaccinated—8,861 people.

“We need to get this up to about 12,000. So, we need about 4,000 workers to come out and be vaccinated,” he said.

“While 8,861 may sound good, it could be a lot better.”

He said vaccination challenges continue to be experienced in long-care, elderly homes.