Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has apologised for the vaccine fiasco last week, but said it was just one bad day.

After more than a year of mana­ging and attempting to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Trinidad and Tobago, Rowley admitted that the Government made a blunder by allowing walk-in vaccinations at health centres across the country.

In fact, the Prime Minister said during yesterday’s Covid-19 news conference, at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, that last Wednesday was “a total failure” for which he, as head of the Government, accepted full responsibility.

But that was just one day he said. And one bad day out of the past year and a half was not so bad, said Rowley.

What actually caused the problem? Rowley said it was a “communication problem” by the Government in reaching out to the wider population.

“...That problem was the communication system between those who needed to be vaccinated and those who were in fact going to get the vaccination.

“As head of the Government, I take responsibility for how the Government goes about its business, and this is part of the Government’s business and I take full responsibi­lity for it.

“I want to tell the country again, notwithstanding any flare-ups or any advice from any quarters, I am in this for the long haul and I intend to see the country through to a place of safe landing on this, so I am not going to be distracted by any intermittent failure or unreasonable expectations or responses,” said the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, thousands of citizens, many over 60 years old and at higher risk of suffering fatal consequences from the virus if contracted, showed up at various health centres to get vaccinated.

This was a direct result of the Government informing this age group and those under 60 with non-communicable diseases that from that day, they were allowed to walk into health centres without any appointment to receive the vaccine.

But it all backfired.

Many of those who showed up were turned away while it was later revealed by Government that they did not have sufficient vaccines for a mass vaccination drive anyway.

Better days ahead 

In spite of this and in the haste to bring the country back to some level of normalcy quickly, Rowley said the Government went a bit too far and attempted to do a bit “too much with too little”.

“Wednesday was a bad day. It was a bad day in that the Government, through its agencies, through its Prime Minister, tried to do too much with too little. It was a bad idea to try to solve the problem of the registration programme, not reaching everyone who wanted to be registered, by simply removing that stricture of a registration and replacing it with, what one can call now, a mass vaccination exercise.

“We are in no position to carry on mass vaccination and, therefore, that ‘experiment’ of trying to do too much with too little could only have failed, and it has failed and we acknowledge that, and I as Prime Minister apologise to those who sought to work within that programme and did in fact experience what took place on Wednesday,” he said.

The Prime Minister added that the decision for the mass vaccination drive had nothing to do with the ability of the technical staff or scientific staff.

“It was fully at the level of the Government as to try to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can and with all the things we tried to do, this one did not work,” he said.

Notwithstanding what occurred, Rowley said he was confident that Trinidad and Tobago was still on track, and with the impending arri­val of hundreds of thousands of more vaccine doses expected in the country from as early as tomorrow, all will soon be well.

“Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. We have been doing reasonably well. In fact, we have been doing quite well.

“We will make sure that whatever vaccines we have will go to those in greatest need, and also in a way that utilises our best infrastructure (both) human and physical,” he said.

He said the vaccination drive in this country was even better than most Caricom countries and even worldwide, and provided figures to support his statement.

Again, he stressed that Wednesday “did not go well”, but the Ministry of Health will review and reconstruct the process to ensure it “never takes place again”.

“I want to acknowledge again that Wednesday did not go well, but we are not going to be throwing the towel because one day in a year and a half did not go well.

“I am confident that the future days will go very well,” he said.

The Prime Minister said a daytime curfew may be put in place on the Labour Day holiday on June 19.

He said the construction industry may have to stay closed for another two weeks, and adjusted hours would be announced for hardware stores.

The Public Health Regulations will also be extended until July 4, Rowley said.

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