Terrence Deyalsingh

EXERCISE TIME: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, from left, Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, and Minister of Youth Development and National Service Fitzgerald Hinds perform a stationary squat at the launch of the Health YouthTT Healthy Communities Programme at the St James Youth Facility, yesterday. Looking on is Rocky Kewley, Trinidad and Tobago Body Building Federation Double Gold Pan American Champion.

—Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Trinidad and Tobago will receive 100,800 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine through the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covax facility.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced yesterday that this first tranche has been approved and confirmed and is expected to arrive by the end of March.

Deyalsingh said the vaccines cost around US$4 each and together with shipping, insurance and associated fees, will cost an estimated US$504,000.

However, he said T&T will not be footing the entire bill as it will be partly funded through a Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) grant of US$160,838.

“It means the Government, and by extension the taxpayer, will be paying for this first tranche of 100,800 vaccines US$343,162.”

Deyalsingh said Government is now awaiting a firm quotation from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) which is expected some time this week.

Once the vaccines are received, the Ministry will continue inoculating health workers.

Deyalsingh said there are approximately 5,000 frontline health workers across the five regional health authorities.

Nine hundred and ninety-one have already been vaccinated from the batch of 2,000 vaccines donated to this country by the government of Barbados.

Phase two of the vaccine distribution will target people with non-communicable diseases and essential workers (police, Coast Guard, army, teachers, sanitation workers, parliamentarians, etc).

Elderly people in long-stay homes will also be targeted, Deyalsingh said.

He said some 900 people in this category have already consented to receiving the vaccine.

“I’m very happy to announce that by the end of March, all things being equal, we will start phase one in a very robust way,” Deyalsingh assured.

The first tranche of 100,800 vaccines from the Covax facility will vaccinate 50,400 people as each person has to receive a second “booster” dose eight to 12 weeks following the first dose.

Deyalsingh again noted the difficulty of accessing vaccines and observed that 75 per cent of all vaccines administered across the world has been in just ten countries.

“Ten countries have used up 75 per cent while more than 130 countries have not received a single dose. So that is not vaccine equity, that is vaccine inequity.”

Asked whether private sector organisations will be able to partner with the Government to purchase vaccines for their employees, Deyalsingh said the Ministry has received some offers.

“The private sector has in fact been reaching out to us, but we will only be using vaccines which Government purchases for members of the public,” he stressed.

“At some point in time the Covid-19 vaccine is going to become a commodity. It is going to become commoditised. And like any other vaccine...every single vaccine in Trinidad and Tobago right now is available free to the public sector and you could pay for it through the private sector. The same thing will happen with Covid-19 vaccines eventually. So any private entity, once the vaccine is registered through a local agent, any private entity can purchase the vaccines for their employees.”

However, Deyalsingh said no private entity can make it mandatory for their employees to get the vaccine as vaccination, although highly recommended, is voluntary.

Local conglomerate ANSA McAL has announced its intention to collaborate with ministries of health in the Caribbean to support their efforts at funding the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines.

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