Vaccine optimism increased yesterday with the announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne of 24,000 additional doses.
Trinidad and Tobago yesterday received 16,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines courtesy the government of St Vincent of the Grenadines (SVG).
And this country is expected to receive an additional 8,000 doses from Bermuda early next week.
As Trinidad and Tobago continues to grapple with daunting Covid-19 numbers, Browne brought “good news” at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference, at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, in the form of vaccine acquisitions from our Caricom neighbour SVG and Bermuda.
Browne also spoke optimistically about the prospect of receiving vaccines from the US. He suggested that SVG became a source because of the existence of vaccine hesitancy in that country.
Asked about St Vincent donating vaccines to T&T at a time when it was dealing with its own crisis as a result of the ongoing eruptions at the La Soufriere volcano, Browne said T&T had been generous to St Vincent during this period, and was also generous to Barbados, which was also affected.
Saying that would have engendered some gratitude, he added that the government of St Vincent had also been mindful of the situation with the pandemic in T&T.
“There has been some vaccine hesitancy, particularly in some of the smaller islands in the region. There is a sense of responsibility that while they work on confronting vaccine hesitancy, no island wants to end up with vaccines that will have to be discarded (due to the expiration of the vaccines).
“And, therefore, some of these elements came together. All anchored by the strong and consistent advocacy at the international level by our Prime Minister, which has resulted in recognition that Trinidad and Tobago is a very important and attractive destination for vaccines at this time,” Browne said.
The vaccines from St Vincent will expire at the end of June.
Saying he did not anticipate wastage of a single vial, Browne pointed out that T&T was “not depriving anyone (in the SVG) of vaccines”, adding the offer was made by SVG and graciously accepted.
He said he was hoping that next week, and in the coming weeks, the Government would be able to share further good news as a result of the advocacy and attention to the circumstances in T&T.
Browne said an airguard flight using a C-26 B aircraft departed T&T yesterday for the SVG, was efficiently loaded with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and, at the time of his speaking, had just landed at Piarco International Airport with the vaccines, which were immediately received by Ministry of Health officials.
“This was the result of significant diplomatic work and communication at the highest levels between our respective heads of government, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
“The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs has been significantly involved, and I have been working very closely with my counterpart in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Keisal Peters,” Browne said.
On the donation of 8,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses from Bermuda, Browne said: “It could be a little bit more but we have confirmed 8,000. The details of the conveyance of those vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago are being finalised as we speak. We anticipate they will be within our jurisdiction very early next week.”
Browne said some of the other rewards for ongoing diplomatic work included the 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines donated by China and 40,000 vaccines donated by the government of India.
He said the Government was working assiduously at all levels in pursuit of positive details associated with the announcement by US President Joe Biden, with respect to the provision of 80 million vaccines for global distribution.
“The feedback and signals we have been receiving have been extremely positive for Caricom as a whole and for Trinidad and Tobago, in particular,” he said.
Browne said T&T ambassador to the US Anthony Phillip Spencer met on Wednesday afternoon with Gail Smith, State Department’s co-ordinator of the global Covid response, and the discussions were very positive.
He said the acquisition of World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines for the population of T&T remains a top priority of the Government.