Dr Amery Browne

optimistic: Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne fields a question at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news

conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

—Photo courtesy the Office of the Prime Minister

Vaccines from multiple sources are coming into Trinidad and Tobago, among them 200,000 doses of Sinopharm arriving “very early next week”.

And there is an aircraft in the Caricom region collecting an unused supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca, which has been gifted to T&T.

Finally, the Prime Minister is seeking to advance the date of the arrival of 800,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines purchased through the African Medical Platform.

So said Foreign Affairs and Caricom Minister Dr Amery Browne as he contributed to the debate on the Supplementation of Appropriation in the Senate yesterday, at the Red House, Port of Spain.

He said: “Eight hundred thousand doses of J&J are scheduled to arrive in August (via the African Medical Platform). But guess what? There is work going on right now, led by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, to seek to advance the arrival (date) of those (J&J) doses.

“We are working hard to set up a meeting between the president of South Africa and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago to bring that arri­val date to as soon as possible, in recognition of our citizens who, for various reasons, are among the most open and welcoming of Covid-19 vaccines. That is a good thing and we need to take advantage of that and not squander the potential that that offers to us,” Browne said.

“And led by the Prime Minister, what is happening right now, today, I just stepped out to make some calls in that regard. We are working with our Cari­com neighbours, recogni­sing that many of us would have purchased COVAX AstraZeneca and due to the high levels of vaccine hesitancy in some of our neighbouring countries, they are certain to end up, a number of them, with excess AstraZeneca that would expire.

“Guess what? We have a different profile here. We have high vaccine acceptance, the need is here and we will not waste a single dose. That is an Air Guard aircraft in the air right down doing some collec­tions from our generous neighbours....

“And that is what diplo­macy is all about to ensure that within the region, nothing is wasted and Caricom citizens can be made as safe as possible,” he said.

Exciting possibilities

Browne also spoke of “some exciting possibilities; I don’t have time to go into them right now, involving Mexico, Argentina and some Latin American vaccines, as well as the Cuban potential”.

He said this enhanced supply did not include the US Global Initiative, “which we are working very closely with, through the Prime Minister and other senior officials in the US administration and elsewhere, to make that a reality. So all of that will culminate, in my humble view, in Trinidad and Tobago becoming in this region one of the most vaccinated populations.”

Unfortunate scenes

Browne said the scenes of senior citizens standing in long lines this week in the sun were unfortunate.

“The Ministry of Health has gone back to the drawing board; my anticipation is that by next week, with the arrival of these additional Sinopharm vaccines, Trinidad and Tobago is going to benefit from much—a more organised, respectful to our senior citizens and collaborative effort to ensure that the vaccines we are acquiring are getting into the arms of the persons who need them the most.

“So all of the ‘woe is me’ and the negativity, some of that is politically expected and, in some cases, appropriate. But let us now move forward together,” he said, adding that humility, collaboration, com­mu­nication and listening to sugges­tions were important in the battle against Covid.

He also saluted the Ministry of Health, which has come under heavy fire, but which had excellent professional staff, including the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the Director of Epidemiology, Principal Medical Officer and all the ground-level persons, as well as the private sector.

He said by the end of yesterday, this country would have had 250,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as a result of ongoing work by people in and out of the country.

He said the majority of the do­ses were acquired free of charge and, therefore, this was not reflected in the supplementation.

“But you know what is reflected here—because we have to pay the staff, the diplomats and other officers that are working with the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, we have to pay the RHA (regional health authority) staff, all the healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly to administer the vaccines,” he said.

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