Dr Amery Browne

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne 

—Photo courtesy the Office of the Prime Minister

The consignment of 400 doses of Pfizer vaccines is going to the intelligence community within the Ministry of National Security, a Government official said yesterday.

And speaking on the matter on i95 FM radio, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said he wanted to clear the air on what was “a very small gift from one security arm to their counterpart with whom they work very closely in Trinidad and Tobago. I will go a little further to say that it is my understanding that this particular type of arrangement is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago”.

Browne emphasised that this was “a specific gift from an arm of the US security services for their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago. This is not anything for the one per cent or Government officials and their children,” he said, dismissing the “mischief on social media”.

He said it was only natural that the population was very interested at this point in time in the vaccine updates and is following developments related to these life-saving pharmaceuticals.

Stressing that this donation was outside of the global vaccine initiative of the White House, Browne said: “We expect far greater numbers of a variety of vaccines from the US during the course of this month, with the pronouncement coming out of the White House and we are working closely with the US Embassy to make that a reality. We are holding them to their word in that regard. I know there was some consternation (with people saying) ‘is it only 80 vials that the country is getting?’.” No, he said, “This was not some effort to sneak in vaccines for public officials or wealthy people. Absolutely not the case.”

Productive weekend

Browne said it was a productive weekend for vaccine acquisition—citing the 18,500 doses from Grenada, the 200,000 Sinopharm shots that arrived yesterday, the largest arrival of vaccines in the country thus far, and on Saturday night the arrival of the 80 vials of Pfizer.

Stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not have to be informed of the arrival of these 400 doses, Browne said the Ministry of National Security did share information with him, along with other key members of the government, that this offer of 80 vials had been received.

He said all the clearances from the Ministry of Health, Customs and all the appropriate agencies had been received and it was his understanding that the logistical preparations were being made to get those vaccines specifically into the arms of the members of the security services. He described as “absurd” reports that there was a circumvention of Customs.

Asked what triggered this gift, Browne said his understanding was that this offer came from the US side. This was certainly no specific request made via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the US in this particular manner, he said.

“We as a government have been focusing on the big picture which is the significant commitment made to Latin America and the Caribbean by the White House. I have a further call today with key US officials in furtherance of that matter. We are working with CARPHA and other regional agencies to make this a reality during the month of June 2021. And that is completely separate and apart from this very small donation for a particular purpose,” he said, noting that people were saying that it was an insult for the US to say they are giving out 80 million doses (to the world) and then donate 80 vials to T&T.

On the Prime Minister not referring to this gift at Saturday’s news conference, Browne said the Prime Minister may not have been aware of the exact time of the arrival of this gift, since he was focused on the global picture.

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