Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh described the ‘stratified approach’ to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout expected to begin in March. The first phase would target priority groups. Next, would be mass public vaccinations and finally, vaccinations through private hospitals.
Speaking at the health ministry’s virtual media conference, Deyalsingh said the first 100,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine received through the Covax facility would go to healthcare workers. Another group at the top of the list for the vaccine were essential public sector workers, including the police, fire service and sanitation workers.
Finally, Deyalsingh said that ‘socially, economically and medically’ vulnerable people would form the next group. Of these, he mentioned people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and elderly people in long-stay homes.
The government has compiled lists of patients through public health clinics who have NCDs. These patients will receive their vaccinations through an appointment system.
“So when they come to clinics to see about their diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, they will be vaccinated right there and then,” Deyalsingh explained.
Medico-legal issues arise with residents of long-stay homes who are incapacitated and cannot, therefore, give informed consent to receive the vaccine. Deyalsingh said in these cases, relatives or guardians would need to give signed consent before the vaccine would be administered.
“What we don’t want is that we administer a vaccine today and then tomorrow the individual unfortunately passes and then we make a link—however tenuous or untrue—between the vaccine and the death of that particular individual,” he said.
After priority groups have been vaccinated, Deyalsingh said the second phase of the rollout would be through mass vaccination with the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association. Any remaining vaccines would be distributed to the public at three or four mass vaccination sites and through village outreach.
Deyalsingh said that the ministry planned to start with priority groups to gain experience and develop standard operating procedures for the mass distribution phase. He also hoped to monitor any cases of side effects.
Deyalsingh did not give any details about how mass vaccinations would work, but he said that by doing it in the second phase, he hoped to avoid the long lines and registration confusion that has been reported in cities across the US.
“It is only when rubber hits the road and we start the programme some kinks will show themselves,” he said, “and that is why we’ll start off a bit slow in the first phase, learn, see what errors we are making, see what gaps there are before we go the mass vaccination route.”
In the UK, which was one of the first countries to begin its vaccination rollout in December 2019, the National Health Service (NHS) contacts members of the public by letter, text or email, who then have to make an appointment for the shot.
T&T’s plan would vaccinate 20% of the population in the first year to stop the acute phase of the pandemic. The health minister also said that the note he submitted to cabinet asked for enough vaccines to cover 33% of the population in the longterm. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said 70–80% of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
The ministry reported 2 new cases of Covid-19 today. January saw 414 new cases reported for the month. The total number of cases reported since March 2020 is 7,566.
The death toll remains at 134 at the start of the new month. January closed with seven fatalities.