Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram advised today that the Ministry of Health would not recommend any relaxations to current Covid-19 restrictions for the month of January, as the government remains vigilant for infections over the Christmas holidays.
The Ministry of Health reported 10 new infections today and a total of 28 new cases in 2021. However, at this morning’s virtual press conference, Parasram said recent low new case numbers should not be taken at ‘face value’ since fewer people seek care at the end of the year.
“We have to look at the numbers. Spikes usually show up 14 to 21 days after an event, so we have to monitor it for the most of January [to] see what’ s happening,” he said. “If we’re seeing the same trends, then we can review and suggest what can happen and should happen then… We have to look at the numbers for another couple weeks going into January and then we can make some determinations…”
Also speaking at the health ministry’s media conference, professor of molecular genetics and virology at the University of the West Indies, Dr Cristine Carrington, said the new variants of the coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa have not yet been detected in Trinidad and Tobago.
Samples from T&T and across the Caribbean are being screened at the university, based on a request from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
She said that the UWI does not do genetic sequencing on every sample collected during Covid-19 testing. Instead, recent samples and those collected by the Ministry of Health during diagnostic testing around the time the new variants appeared were screened.
The UK’s new variant was first detected in September 2020 and has now been found in 38 countries, including Jamaica. Both it and the South African variant are reportedly more transmissible than the original strain of the virus.
Dr Carrington said that while these variants appear to be more easily spread, and so would need to be monitored, there was no evidence that they were more deadly than other variants of the virus. She added that there was no evidence that the current vaccines approved for use against Sars-Cov-2 wouldn’t also work against these new variants.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh did not say when the country could expect to receive its first round of vaccinations. But he did say the government was working on acquiring the vaccine—both within the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility and through bilateral agreements with the producers of the Pfizer, Oxford/Astra-Zeneca and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.
In the first instance, he said the government plans to acquire 50,000 doses for 25,000 people. The vaccines require two doses for maximum efficacy.
According to Deyalsingh, the health ministry was preparing a web application that would track when patients received their first dose and remind them to return for their second dose 14 or 28 days later (based on which vaccine was administered).
Parasram explained that the second dose of a vaccine gave an extra boost of protection to the first dose. In the case of Pfizer, protection went from 52% after the first dose to 91-95% after the second.
He added that anyone who missed their second dose should still get the booster shot late.
“If you miss that second dose, we expect that there will be a boost in your immunity even if you get it late, which happens with other diseases … So we recommend even if miss if by a week or two you still have it, but we will try to stick to the manufacturer’s guideline because that is where the research is based.”
He said that while the protection would likely increase above the level received after the first shot, the amount of extra protection could not be predicted if the booster shot is received after the recommended time.
Deyalsingh said mass multiple-dose vaccinations were not new to the country.
“I don’t want the population and members of the media to get the impression we are doing this for the first time,” he said. “We in Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caricom region, in the PAHO region … have one of the most robust vaccination programmes in the world. We are accustomed to mass vaccination programmes. We are accustomed to delivering multi-dose vaccination regimes.
“[…] What we are doing is taking an already robust mass vaccination system and tailoring it to Covid-19 vaccines.”
As for which of the available vaccines the country would buy, Deyalsingh said that was still to be determined and regional CMOs would be meeting this week to pre-qualify the vaccines and discuss which were most suitable.
Since March, there have been 7118 confirmed cases of Sars-Cov-2 in Trinidad and Tobago. There are 333 current active cases. The death toll is 127 due to Covid-19.