BTrinidad and Tobago is scheduled to receive it first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines by the end of March, however, it will not be the full 100,800 doses as signed off on by the COVAX Facility, according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.
“We actually got the quotation last week Friday and what PAHO has indicated is that they are going to split the shipment into maybe two parts. They gave us a quotation for thirty-three thousand, six hundred doses at a cost of one hundred and forty-eight thousand, eighty-four dollars and six cents US (US$148,084.06).”
Deyalsingh said the money for the payment was sent to the Central Bank by the Ministry of Health and that between today and tomorrow, the funds will be deposited into the PAHO Revolving Fund, which is the last step on their end.
“It means now we wait for delivery of the first tranche of our hundred thousand, which we are guaranteed at this stage of thirty-three thousand, six hundred to begin our vaccination programme. And then the rest of the vaccines will follow as originally stated between March and May.”
He said the Government decided to go this route and not wait for the entire shipment because an entire shipment might be delayed, so they are very happy to be receiving 33,600 while the balance of 67,200 will come sometime in April or early May.
“We weighted the pro and cons of accepting thirty-three thousand, six hundred or waiting for the entire shipment. We felt at this stage with things being so uncertain in the global scene, with supply not being able to keep up with demand, that it is better to take this first tranche of thirty-three thousand, six hundred and begin our vaccination programme.
Deyalsingh noted that with 33,600 they can begin a more vigorous campaign of vaccinating healthcare workers, then move on to cover the 987 elderly persons in long-stay homes before moving on to treat with patients with non-communicable diseases.
The Health Minister stated the Government has been engaged in bi-lateral talks with a number of vaccine manufacturers.
“We are also in talks, and those talks are going on right now at the ministry with the Chief Medical Officer and the principal pharmacist with Sinopharm. Synopharm’s dossier with their phase three trials is currently before WHO (World Health Organisation), so that is good news again, it means there is the potential for a fourth WHO vaccine to become available.
“So we have our foot in the door for that potential source of vaccine,” Deyalsingh said.
He noted that in addition to being in discussion with the Chinese Embassy and Sinopharm since last year, the Government has also held bi-lateral talks with the Serum Institute of India as well as Bharat Biotech, also of India.
He said despite these discussions, the Government is committed to only importing vaccines into Trinidad and Tobago that are WHO certified.
“We are also pursuing, very vigorously, vaccines out of the African Medical Council platform. We are registered as a purchaser.
Deyalsingh said they were initially told we could purchase 226,000 doses but that amount has been increased across three of the vaccines’ platforms.
“We have upped our vaccine request up to 446,000 via the African Medical Council platform. We are waiting for price estimates and estimated times of arrival,” Deyalsing said.