PAHO: T&T must show readiness to get Covid vaccine; MOH: we’re working on it

Some governments around the world, including the US and UK, have told their populations to expect Covid-19 vaccination to start by the end of 2020. But in Trinidad and Tobago, there is no word yet from health officials when the vaccine could be available locally.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s media conference, country representative for the Pan American Health Organisation (Paho), Dr Erica Wheeler, said when a vaccine was approved, the country would have to demonstrate it was ready to receive it.

Photo: Bottles of Covid-19 vaccine.

When asked about Trinidad and Tobago’s readiness, the manager of the expanded programme on immunisation for the Ministry of Health, Nurse Grace Sookchan, was not able to say when the three planned storage facilities would be equipped with the needed chillers and low-temperature freezers.

She did say the ministry was ‘working on it’.

But before the first vaccine has been approved, a study by Duke University found that high-income, and some middle-income countries, have already purchased nearly 3.8 billion doses, with options for another five billion. Some analysts have warned of a potential inequality of vaccine access around the globe.

Dr Wheeler said the Covax facility—a collaboration co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)—will guarantee equitable access to the vaccine. She said that as one of the 187 participating countries, Trinidad and Tobago will receive enough vaccines for at least 20% of its population in the first phase, with more vaccines to follow in subsequent phases.

“That’s why it was so important for us to be part of the Covax facility, so rather than taking chances and saying, ‘oh I will have a separate bilateral agreement’, being part of Covax, it is binding. So, it means that you will acquire those vaccines as part of that agreement … [the facility] is supported by both technical administrative and legal rules and the vaccine manufacturers have all signed up for it.”

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She added: “There is no question that one country that is rich can go ahead and get three-quarters of the vaccines. No. There is a global agreement and there will be controls as to how the vaccines have been distributed.”

Covax aims to distribute two billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, some participating countries, like Canada, the European Union and the UK have still signed bi-lateral side-agreements with drug manufacturers. The US has not signed on to Covax.

The death of an elderly man due to Covid-19 reported today, 2 December 2020, brings the country’s death toll to 121.

Nineteen new positive cases were reported today. To date, there have been 6,704 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Trinidad and Tobago since March.

The total number of active cases is now at 740, with 44 patients in hospital, 26 in step-down facilities and 252 in state quarantine facilities. There are 186 inmates quarantined in the prison system.

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About Fayola Bostic

Fayola Bostic is a writer and copyeditor. She is the founder of Write Energy Ltd, which creates content for technical industry brands. Fayola is a former engineer who has been writing professionally for more than a decade.

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