Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is unable to determine the impact of the decision to destroy 60 million doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccines, at a Baltimore, Maryland, plant in the United States, on Trinidad and Tobago’s order of 800,000 J&J doses due to arrive in August.
He was responding to a question from Naparima MP Rodney Charles yesterday whether the decision of the US Food and Drug Administration to order Johnson and Johnson to dispose of 60 million doses of its vaccines due to possible contamination would affect this country since it is expected to receive vaccines from the African Medical Supply.
Deyalsingh said the J&J vaccine is produced at multiple sites in the US and in seven countries—in South Africa under technology transfer agreement, at a plant in Italy, a plant in the Netherlands, a plant in Spain, a plant in France and one in India.
“For these reasons, it is difficult to anticipate the possible effects of this (decision to destroy the 60 million) and, therefore, no opinion can be put forward at this point in time,” he said.
Charles said given the fact there is a global shortage, the loss of 60 million vaccines will impact the overall global supply of the vaccine, and he asked what contingency the Government had taken.
The Speaker disallowed the question saying it was “purely speculative”.
Charles then asked if given the fact the Government had “made errors” with the supply situation, was any contingency being considered.
Deyalsingh said: “I categorically deny and denounce the statement about errors. We have been engaged in both bilateral talks, which have borne abundant fruit in the last two months with the delivery of 300,000 doses of vaccines.”
He said in addition, there were doses coming in from COVAX, and Government was in bilateral talks with other manufacturers.
“While this is undoubtedly something to take note of, as I have indicated, there are seven other countries currently manufacturing J&J vaccines, in addition to multiple sites within continental United States. So it is very difficult to try to predict or foresee the impact that this is going to have,” Deyalsingh said.
A question from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal on exactly who would be the recipients of the 400 Pfizer doses that entered the country in a “scandalous” manner on Sunday was ruled “out of order” by the Speaker.
Govt to buy
Meanwhile, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said agricultural marketing corporation Namdevco has offered to purchase items to include in the food market box delivery that is given to Members of Parliament for vulnerable constituents.
Responding to a question from Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram on the weekend 19-hour, back-to-back curfew and its impact on the harvesting and marketing routines of farmers, Robinson-Regis said all farmers markets and farmers associated with these markets had been contacted.
She said for the regions Diego Martin and San Fernando, fewer than ten farmers said they would be willing to attend a market on a Friday.
With respect to those farmers who operate at the Queen’s Park Savannah, “as we know, this is now a vaccine site” on a Friday, she said.
She said Government got no response from Chaguanas farmers.
With respect to Arima, Couva and Macoya farmers, based on the contact that was made with them, they indicated they were not willing to participate in a Friday market as it is not a normal market day and customer turnout is usually low.
Asked by Ratiram whether compensation was being given to farmers as a result of losses incurred due to the “imposition” of the weekend lockdown, Robinson-Regis said the Government had not imposed a lockdown on the people of the country, or the farmers specifically.
She said she was sure Ratiram understood that the country was in a pandemic and the Government has consistently been doing everything possible to ensure the people of Trinidad and Tobago remain safe.
Ratiram said the lockdown would affect both wholesale and retail markets, and asked whether Government would consider revising the market hours.
The Speaker did not allow this as a supplemental question.
Seabridge, airbridge changes
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, responding to a question from Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein on the impact of the weekend curfew on travellers who had already purchased tickets, said the management of the Inter-Island Transportation Company (TTIT) had advised the travelling public and all stakeholders who purchased tickets for the sailing on June 19 and 20 of the cancellation of sailing.
It also advised that tickets already purchased can be used to travel on any further date.
With respect to Caribbean Airlines, he said flight times will be amended to coincide with the hours of curfew and to mitigate disruptions to the travelling public.