THE Government begins its phase one roll-out of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme from today, with the AstraZeneca vaccine which arrived in Trinidad and Tobago last Wednesday.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will take his first vaccine injection at the Scarborough Health Centre at 2.30 p.m. while Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh will receive his dose at the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre at 3 p.m.
The country received 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility.
The vaccines expire on May 31.
The vaccine must be administered in two doses, about eight to 12 weeks apart.
Deyalsingh, in a phone interview with the Express yesterday, said everything is in place at the 21 designated vaccine facilities for the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
Frontline healthcare workers will begin receiving their shots from around 8 a.m.
Deyalsingh said people who are in non-communicable diseases (NCD) clinics at the 21 designated Covid-19 vaccine facilities will not have to pre-register or make an appointment as they will be offered the vaccine when they attend their NCD clinic appointment, while those aged 60 and over with NCDs can call to make an appointment on non-NCD clinic days.
“We ask the public to co-operate with us today, as only persons with the appointment should turn up at the facilities. Walk with your vaccination card, if not we would provide one for you,” said Deyalsingh.
With regard to homes for the elderly and if consent was granted by relatives for them to be vaccinated, Deyalsingh said the ministry has gotten confirmation that approximately 900 elderly people have agreed and the process is being worked out as to how it will be administered to them.
He thanked the regional health authorities (RHAs) and ministry officials for working round the clock over the Easter weekend to ensure that all vaccines were delivered to the 21 sites as this was the most significant public health measure in the history of the country.
“However, I do ask the population and the media to be patient with us for the first couple of weeks as there are going to be some teething issues, but only when you roll out in reality, some issues are going to show up. We have contingency plans, but we still ask for patience to be exercised.”
Asked if he had concerns about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine amid reports around the world that there could be a link between the vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome, the minister said he had “absolutely” no concerns about taking the vaccine.
“I would be encouraging the public to listen to the science as nothing has been proven or linked with the AstraZeneca vaccines at this point in time. Over 500 million of the various vaccines have been administered to people around the world, with little or no adverse effects. I have total confidence in the vaccination programme,” he said.
Responding to concerns about the expiry date of the vaccines, given they are due to expire seven weeks from the start of the vaccination roll-out, Deyalsingh said the ministry may administer all 33,600 doses of the vaccine and wait for a second shipment for recipients to get their second dose, but that decision will be taken in the coming weeks.
He said phase two of the vaccine will include essential workers and the wider public, but it depends on the number of vaccines that Government receives.
Deyalsingh said the aim was to get 60 to 70 per cent of the population vaccinated.
But he explained that the process would take some time as the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to roll out its approval plan for other vaccines.
He made it clear that only vaccines that have received WHO approval and have undergone rigorous scientific and clinical analysis, in keeping with the highest vaccine-testing standards, will be used in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Express spoke to officials at various RHAs yesterday and they stated that they were all happy that this day has arrived to help curb the spread of the virus.
Security has been increased at all 21 sites to ensure order and back-up generators are in place should there be an unforeseen electricity outage.
What you should do
The Ministry of Health advises people going for the vaccination to have a good meal, drink a non-alcoholic beverage and wear clothing that will provide easy access to the upper arm for vaccination.
Bring to the facility:
-Valid form of identification (eg, driver’s permit, national identification, passport)
-Clinic card (where applicable)
After the receipt of the first dose of the vaccine, immunisation cards will be updated with the relevant information, including the type of vaccine administered, the date received, and the next appointment date.
An immunisation card will be provided for those who don’t have a card.
People who receive the Covid-19 vaccine will remain under observation for 30 minutes before leaving the facility.
1. Mayaro District Health Facility
2. Rio Claro Health Centre
3. Sangre Grande Enhanced Health Centre
4. Toco Health Centre
North Central Regional Health Authority
5. Arima District Health Facility
6. Chaguanas District Health Facility
7. La Horquetta Health Centre
8. St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre
North West Regional
9. Barataria Health Centre
10. Diego Martin Health Centre
South West Regional
11. Couva District Health Facility
12. Freeport Health Centre
13. La Romaine Health Centre
14. Marabella Health Centre
15. Point Fortin Health Centre
16. Princes Town District Health Facility
17. Siparia District Health Facility
18. Ste Madeleine Health Centre
19. Canaan/Bon Accord Health Centre
20. Roxborough Health Centre
21. Scarborough Health Centre