Terrence Deyalsingh

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh

More vaccines are coming.

Trinidad and Tobago is to receive a significantly increased supply of Covid-19 doses from the Afri­can Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).

This country, which was initially set to get 226,000 doses, will have a near doubling of this allocation to 426,000 from the AMSP.

“We are awaiting price estimates and estimated times of arrival,” Health Minister Terrence Deyal­singh said in the Senate, at the Red House, Port of Spain, yesterday.

The 426,000 doses are in addition to 108,000 doses that T&T is scheduled to receive via the United Nations-backed Covax alliance mechanism.

Deyalsingh said the 108,000 doses are expected to arrive by the end of March. That is the deadline given to T&T by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), he added.

The AMSP, a single-source platform designed to achieve faster, more transparent and cost-effective access to Covid-19 supplies, has preordered vaccines for 55 African Union member states.

Caricom member states, who have been squeezed out of the international market because of their relatively small demands, sought vaccines through the AMSP. The platform also assists in the procurement of “vaccine accessories” such as ultra-low temperature freezers, personal protective equipment (PPE), syringes and needles.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in his opening address at the 32nd Intersessional Meeting of Caricom leaders, had praised Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley for her “pioneering role” in securing Caricom’s access to vaccines through the AMSP.

Deyalsingh, who was responding to an urgent question from Independent Senator Paul Richards, also said through the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, approaches have also been made to India, China, Germany, France and Canada.

He said the Ministry of Health was also in bilateral talks with several vaccine manufacturers.

Round-table discussion

Deyalsingh said Caricom had called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to immediately convene an international convention of the world’s people’s representatives to commiserate, explain, assist and commit to a fair sharing of the available vaccine resources for the benefit of all humankind, and not just the privileged, well-heeled few.

“I have been informed by the Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs (Dr Amery Browne) that out of this call, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee intends to hold a Caribbean/US round table on Wednesday, March 24, on vaccines and small island developing states,” Deyalsingh said.

However, Browne later clarified that “the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has signalled his intention to host a Caribbean-United States round table on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, and we are planning for the issue of vaccines for small island developing countries to be raised at that forum and at all similar fora”.

Trinidad and Tobago has thus far received 2,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, which were gifted by Barbados, which in turn had received 100,000 doses courtesy the government of India.

Rowley has written to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, seeking his assistance in accessing the AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India.

There is controversy over the decision of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to write to Modi.

Ministers Deyalsingh and Browne have castigated her for ta­king it upon herself to write to Modi, especially since the Government, through Prime Minister Rowley, had already initiated approaches to India at the government-to-government level.

“This decision of the Opposition Leader to try and insert herself into a matter of ongoing government-to-­government communication must be seen for what it is, an attempt to position herself to claim in retrospect that her letter was the one that achieved any particular outcome,” Browne said on Monday .

Also on Monday, Deyalsingh took issue with Persad-Bissessar’s statement in her letter to Modi that Trinidad and Tobago was “reeling” from Covid-19.

In defending her decision, the Opposition Leader, in a release, asked how it was that five Caricom countries were going to receive batches of Covid-19 vaccines as a gift from India and Trinidad and Tobago had not secured a similar arrangement.

“I make no apologies for writing to Prime Minister Modi on behalf of all people of Trinidad and Tobago.... The lives and livelihoods of our citi­zens are at stake. If this impotent Government won’t do their jobs, I will,” she said.

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