Tobago is facing challenges in administering its allocation of 3,000 Covid-19 vaccines, as some people are fearful to receive the shot, the Tobago Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development has said.
The division is now urging Tobagonians to put their fears aside and get vaccinated, and has opened the vaccination process to the public.
In a statement yesterday, the division said since the process began on Tuesday, some 2,200 people have registered to receive the vaccines, but the division has only inoculated about 150 people per day at its three vaccination sites.
As a result, the division said it will now open up the vaccination to all people over the age of 18 to ensure the AstraZeneca vaccines are used before their May 31 expiry date.
Trinidad and Tobago is in its first phase of the vaccination exercise, which is targeting frontline health workers and people over the age of 60 with non-communicable diseases.
However, in its statement, the division said when registration initially started, it was recognised that there would be a challenge to administer all the doses by the expiry date.
It said while senior citizens and frontline medical staff are still being given priority, the vaccination is voluntary and some have opted not to receive the shot due to fears and suspicion of the vaccine.
The division noted that the vaccine must be taken in two doses, with the second dose being given at least eight weeks after the first.
It said this means the first dose must be given as early as possible.
“Therefore, a system was devised to ensure that none of the vaccines remain on hand post-May month end,” it said. “While front line workers are a priority, as well as persons 60 years and over, the vaccination process was opened to all persons over 18 years of age, who are interested in taking the vaccine.”
The division said the vaccines must not be allowed to go to waste and it will accept walk-ins in cases where people who made appointments to get the shot do not turn up, as once a vial is opened, the vaccines must be used within a six-hour period.
“Vaccines are a scarce commodity and are difficult to get, therefore our system must take into consideration the prevailing circumstances and the realities. Wastage at this time is not encouraged. Our focus now is on ensuring that all dosages are administered by the end of May and that eventually at least over 60 per cent of the population is vaccinated. In that regard, we are heartened that more vaccines will arrive into the country by next week so that the process can continue with some level of predictability.”
The division noted that there are still fears from the general public regarding the safety of the vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to rare blood clots developing in some recipients, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) has encouraged countries to continue administering it as it said the benefits outweigh the “minimal risks”.
‘Vaccine will be a
The division said yesterday that despite the fears, people are signing up on a steady basis to receive the vaccines.
“So far, Tobago has managed to vaccinate over 150 persons per day at the three health centres in Roxborough, Scarborough and Canaan,” it stated. “We continue to urge persons to put their fears aside.”
Health Secretary Tracy Davidson–Celestine encouraged Tobagonians to get the vaccine, as it may become a global requirement at some point.
She said she has received the vaccine and is “still standing”.
“I was able to resume normal activities after only a few hours. While signing up and taking the vaccine is voluntary, pretty soon it will become a global requirement, especially for travel. And, who knows, perhaps to enter some business places as well. If we agree that we want to return to normal and reduce the social and economic pressures, it’s important that we subscribe.”