The long-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility are now in Trinidad and Tobago.
The first batch of 33,600 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine arrived yesterday at the South terminal of the Piarco International Airport promptly at 6.10 pm.
It was received by Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) representative Dr Erica Wheeler along with other ministry representatives.
A release from PAHO described the delivery as “a historic step toward ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.” It also quoted Dr Wheeler as saying: “Seeing this arrival is very reassuring and it means that more people will be able to be protected from COVID-19.”
Minister Deyalsingh described the process as having gone “smoothly” in an interview with CNC3 news last evening.
He said the ministry intends to begin the rollout of the National Vaccination Drive next week on Tuesday, April 6 as previously planned.
“We start the national rollout on Tuesday for both islands. We start to vaccinate our healthcare workers, at least we continue that because we did 1,000, and then we start to vaccinate persons over 60 with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension in the public healthcare system. We are also going to open it up to members of the public healthcare system,” he said in the interview.
He also said the appointment system for those in the latter category outside of the public healthcare system would be brought on stream within the next few days.
Over the Easter Weekend, doses would be sent to the 21 distribution sites across the country to begin inoculations on Tuesday.
On Thursday, 3,000 doses would be sent across to Tobago.
The second batch of 67,200 doses is expected to arrive within the next two months. Together, these two batches would constitute the first tranche of 100,800 vaccines to the country from the COVAX facility.
T&T signed on to the facility on September 18, 2020, and made a downpayment of US $1.477 million. It’s the only channel to procure doses for the country that has borne fruit to date.
On Wednesday, March 24, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated that India would gift this country 40,000 doses of the COVISHIELD (made using Oxford-AstraZeneca formula) vaccines manufactured at the Serum Institute of India. However, there was no date of receipt announced. He also indicated China promised 100,000 doses of Sinopharm made by Beijing’s Sinovac Biotech once it attains the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency use listing as required for use in T&T’s population.
Meanwhile, 18 COVID cases were reported yesterday by the Ministry of Health.
The Distribution Sites
There are four sites identified under the ERHA; the Rio Claro and Sangre Grande Health Centres, the Mayaro District Health Facility and the Cumana Outreach Centre.
Under the NCRHA are four sites; the Arima and Chagaunas District Health Facilities, the La Horquetta and St Joseph Enhanced Health Centres. There are two sites under the NWRHA; the Barataria and Diego Martin Health Centres. With eight sites, the SWRHA has the most facilities dedicated to distribution. These are the Freeport, La Romain, Marabella, Point Fortin and St Madeline Health Centres, along with the Couva, Princes Town and Siparia District Health Facilities.
There are three facilities identified under the TRHA; the Canaan/Bon Accord, Roxborough and Scarborough Health Centres.
The doses received yesterday would be split into two batches. Half would be stored at the C40 Central Stores in Chaguaramas and the other at the newly built chiller at the Couva Medical and Multi-Training Facility where they would be escorted and guarded by the Defence Force.