Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh today announced the government’s plan for the storage and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available. There are no approved vaccines yet, but the minister mentioned two under development—one by biotech company Moderna and the other by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer—that he said was encouraging.
The ministry plans to distribute the vaccine to 33% of the population when it becomes available. Priority will be given to frontline workers, including healthcare workers, sanitisation workers and police and armed forces. The elderly with co-morbidities and patients who are immuno-compromised will also be among the first to receive the vaccine.
As a participating country in Covax—coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)—in the first phase, T&T will receive enough vaccines for 20% of its population.
Chief Scientist for the WHO, Dr Soumya Swamination, has said that scientists predict that between 60–70% of a population will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before it achieves herd immunity. She said for many countries, it could take years for that much of the population to be immunised.
Of the two, Deyalsingh said Moderna’s vaccine was the one more suitable for use in Trinidad and Tobago because it did not require the ultra-low storage temperatures that Pfizer’s did.
Pfizer’s vaccine needs a storage temperature of minus 70 degrees Celcius, while Moderna’s can be stored at minus 20 degrees for up to six months. Moderna’s vaccine is also stable between 2 and 8 degrees for up to 30 days. These storage requirements, Deyalsingh said, were like those for vaccines already kept in T&T.
As part of the Ministry of Health’s storage plan, they have identified three storage sites for the Covid-19 vaccine: Couva Hospital (the main distribution hub), C40 Central Stores in Chaguaramas and a third in Tobago. Walk-in chillers will need to be built in the Couva and Tobago sites and ultra-low temperature freezers ordered for all sites.
Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s press conference with Minister Deyalsingh, Chief Medical Office Dr Roshan Parasram confirmed that there was an outbreak of coronavirus in the prisons with 88 positive cases detected.
In April, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi identified 388 prisoners for possible release to help reduce the risk of infection in the prisons. Wired868 asked the panel whether those prisoners had in fact been released and whether there were any plans for further releases given this newest outbreak. The panel did not respond, instead referred us to media releases from the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service. No media release from the prison service mentions the 388 prisoners or plans for further releases.