The European Union has confirmed that it will begin controlling exports of the Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines from the bloc. This is after an ongoing dispute with vaccine manufacturers about shortfalls in vaccine delivery.
Many wealthy countries, some of which have already begun vaccination programmes, have ordered enough vaccines to cover their entire populations multiple times over. Canada, which leads the world in vaccine orders, has secured enough to vaccinate its 38 million population three times. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised hoarding as ‘vaccine nationalism’.
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan criticised wealthy countries for fighting over the vaccine while some poor countries have yet to receive any doses and would likely have a long wait ahead of them.
“It looks like fighting over the cake when they don’t even have access to the crumbs,” he said.
Trinidad and Tobago’s chief medical officer (CMO), Dr Roshan Parasram, said in the health ministry’s virtual media conference on Wednesday, that the government was exploring three broad areas to get the vaccine: the WHO directed Covax facility, bi-lateral talks with vaccine manufacturers that began in October, and a Caricom initiative looking at vaccine consolidation in the region.
When asked if he was concerned that the dispute between wealthy countries and manufactures would prevent T&T from procuring the vaccine, he said: “When you have a vaccine with such high demand, production will be a challenge. That’s why we are exploring three different options at this time […] if there is an issue with one particular track, we have some other procurement mechanisms to fall back on to.”
He added: “Most of the manufacturers would have committed supplies to Covax prior to going to external markets. So at least we have that confidence that through the Covax facility the supplies would be guaranteed based on the arrangement with Covax at some point.”
The Covax facility guarantees participating countries enough doses to immunise 20% of their populations.
Today, the Ministry of Health reported 13 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total confirmed cases to 7533. No new fatalities were recorded.
There are 272 confirmed active cases, with 40 patients hospitalised, including three in intensive care, and three in step-down facilities.
State quarantine facilities are housing 365 people and there are a further 216 people in self-isolation.