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MP for Chaguanas West Dinesh Rambally, right, shows members of the media a document during yesterday’s press conference at the Office of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port-of-Spain. Looking on is MP Dr Rishad Seecharan.

UNC Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecharan said yesterday that many Caribbean islands which have and are getting COVID-19 vaccines from India will be able to achieve herd immunity against the virus, allowing them to reopen borders quicker than T&T, which is still awaiting vaccines from the COVAX facility.

At a news conference yesterday, Seecheran accused Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh of gross negligence, as he said it appeared to him, the minister didn’t know India was producing vaccines and donating them, even though T&T has such strong links with India.

“If he didn’t know where the vaccines came from, how can we trust him in getting vaccines ahead,” he said, pointing to an error made by the minister regarding vaccines gifted to T&T by Barbados.

Seecheran noted 92 countries wrote India for vaccines even before India got approval for vaccines. He noted Brazil also ordered from India even before the World Health Organisation (WHO)certified it.

India donated to Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, Oman, Mauritius, Afghanistan, Barbados and Dominica.

He noted Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada, St Kitts, The Bahamas and St Lucia are also getting vaccines from India as gifts, ranging from 20,000 doses to 80,000.

Seecheran said small population countries including Caribbean states which get India’s vaccines will get herd immunity to the virus quicker and be able to restart economies and open borders quicker than T&T will be able to do that and this country will remain in lockdown.

He said the 120,000 vaccines that T&T is getting from Covax in the first batch for frontline workers and other vulnerable categories will only supply the required two doses for 60,000 people­—five per cent of T&T’s population. He said this won’t put T&T close to achieving herd immunity and the virus will continue.

“T&T needs two million doses,” he said.

He noted the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine T&T is getting was only recently approved overseas and Covax has only gotten a fraction of the two billion doses it has promised countries.

Caricom leaders meet this week to examine regional populations’ access to the COVID-19 virus.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Caricom’s chairman, will supervise Caricom’s Intersessional meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.

Government yesterday stated key agenda items include a COVID-19 review and access to vaccines for the people of the region.

Meanwhile former Health Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh is calling for clarity on the vaccine plan.

“This widespread mixed messaging and outright withholding of critical information has effectively given the population the convincing impression that the Rowley Government simply does not, and cannot, properly manage the crucial Covid-19 vaccination process for T&T. While this lack of transparency and confusion has worryingly defined the Government’s overall response to the Covid-19 pandemic from its outset, it is simply dangerous and unacceptable at this crucial stage of the pandemic,” he said.

He added: “The fact is that in order to ensure proper Covid-19 herd immunity over 80 per cent of our 1.3 million population must be vaccinated, which translates into approximately 800,000 citizens. Thus far, citizens have gotten no clear indication of whether the Government can in fact source and rapidly and quickly distribute this requisite sum, and the timeframe for so doing.”