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85 year old Ashraf Ali holds his immunization card shortly after taking the AstraZeneca covid19 vaccine at the Princes Town District Health Facility, one of eight vaccination sites within the SWRHA

Having labelled yesterday’s roll-out of the country’s vaccination programme a tremendous success, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh stated that it’s probably the most significant day in the history of Trinidad and Tobago when it comes to public health and public health interventions.

Speaking at Wednesday’s virtual Covid-19 press conference, Deyalsingh said: “In facing down a global pandemic which is now seen to be a one-in-a-hundred-year event, we started our national vaccination plan. So that in itself is significant.

“Yes, there were some operational issues, as you can imagine, and we will face those down but by and large, yesterday was a tremendously successful day.”

Noting that some 1,153 persons were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine yesterday, the Health Minister said that one-day total surpassed the initial target of 1,000 they had hoped to achieve by the end of the first week of the programme.

A breakdown of the figures across the country’s five Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) showed that 471 persons were vaccinated at the South West RHA, 280 at the North Central RHA, 171 at the Eastern RHA, 151 at the Tobago RHA, and 80 at the North West RHA.

“What are some of the positives that we can take out from yesterday? One, the public has faith in the vaccine. There is a high level of vaccine acceptance in Trinidad and Tobago. That means we have an informed and intelligent public, and I want to congratulate the public. I want to congratulate Mr and Mrs Trinidadian, and Mr and Mrs Tobagonian.

“Yesterday I took the vaccine myself leading from the front, as we say, with healthcare workers. And I’m totally glad to have been vaccinated. I personally trust the vaccine and have faith in the vaccine, otherwise I would not have taken it,” Deyalsingh said.

He said based on that he want to encourage more and more people to take the vaccine as the country receives more supply of the vaccine and as they roll out more and more vaccination sites.

“I am sure one of the questions I will be asked is did I experience any side effects, and the answer is no. I had no fever, no headache, nothing. I spent a comfortable night. I have no pain at my injection site so I’m perfectly fine, but we do know some people experienced some minor side effects, and that is not to be minimised.

“So far we have administered over 2,000 vaccines including yesterday plus what we started with healthcare workers. And so far, in our analysis of the trend with those 2,000, we have not noticed any adverse effects. There have been some side effects but no adverse effects.”

He noted that vaccinated persons usually get over the side effects within 24 to 48 hours.

The Health Minister stated that three additional vaccination sites will soon be added under the North West RHA, having faced some earlier setbacks in achieving this.

“When the team led by the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and the RHAs visited some of the sites in the inner city like Oxford Street, George Street and Woodbrook, they found that these health centres because they were in the city, they either had no parking or inside were too small to accommodate a safe amount of people being vaccinated.

“So we didn’t want to delay the project while we brought on three more sites, so we’ve been working over the past couple of weeks and we have looked at three other sites.”

He said that hopefully by Saturday when it has been finalised the people of Port of Spain and environs would be informed about the locations of the new sites, which would lead to the vaccinated numbers under the NWRHA going up significantly.

“I want to thank everyone at the Ministry of Health and the five RHAs who worked with us, who planned, had sleepless nights, and worked over the Easter weekend to have a successful roll-out yesterday.”

He said it was very apt to be celebrating World Health Day as it comes one day after the country began its vaccination programme targeted to healthcare workers and those most vulnerable in society.

Meanwhile, Maryam Abdool-Richards, Principal Medical Officer – Institutions, was more tempered in her delivery of the country’s clinical Covid-19 update.

She said the country recorded 22 more cases of Covid-19 as of yesterday, which took the number of active cases to 392.

She also noted that there were some increasing trends with regards to the transmission of the virus.

“We have seen the hospital occupancy levels increase from two per cent in the first week in January to this week where it has increased to 13 per cent. That increase started around three weeks ago when we noted an increase in the number of cases that have been consistent over the last three week or so.

“Also, the rolling average number of cases was approximately three at the beginning of the year, and held constant until about three weeks ago. As of this week, the rolling average has increased tenfold, from three to 30.”

Abdool-Richards said in following the mapping of the overall transmission of the virus by the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology and GIS Departments, what was noted over the past three weeks is a shift in the transmission of cases from the Central and South regions into the East-West corridor.

“It means that we’re now seeing a transmission of the Covid-19 virus throughout the country. It’s no longer restricted to the Central and South regions but now going onto the East-West corridor with a similar prevalence rate or a similar number of cases as the Central and South areas.”

She stated that this really emphasises the need for all members of the population to exercise their Covid-19 mitigation measures.

“I would like to remind members of the population that although we have had a successful roll-out of the vaccine starting yesterday, the Covid-19 vaccine is just an additional layer of protection for persons and for our population. Additionally, I would like to remind persons who have been vaccinated, to continue with their Covid-19 measures to reduce the Covid-19 virus, so you need to continue practicing the 3Ws-Watch your distance, Wash your hands, and Wear your mask properly,” Abdool-Richards said.

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