The first shipment of 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday. Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that with these shots, the health ministry will begin its vaccine rollout on Tuesday 6 April.
According to chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram, the vaccines will expire on 31 May.
“We basically at best have about 7 weeks with that first dose,” he said.
The CMO said the manufacturer had initially recommended the second dose be administered within 21 to 28 days of the first dose. However, since then, the World Health Organization (WHO) was now recommending health officials wait eight to 12 weeks before giving the second dose.
Since T&T’s first batch of vaccines would expire before 8 weeks, the CMO said the ministry would decide in the next few weeks whether to use all or half of the 33,600 vaccines.
“What we will be doing is using the first half of the 33,000—16,000 doses—and determining, basically, if and when we’re getting that second supply. And then we’ll make a decision then as to if to use this 16,000 and hold for the second dose, or go ahead and use all 33,000 for a first dose, and of course, give the second dose when the other tranche of AstraZeneca comes in,” he said.
Dr Parasram explained that using this first shipment of the vaccine to give 16,000 people two doses would be in line with the manufacturer’s initial recommendation.
“What we’ve found now in terms of the research: after you’ve had your first dose of this vaccine, you roughly have about 76% protection with one single dose, that goes up to somewhere above 82-84% with a second dose given up to manufacturing specification, meaning 21 – 28 days apart,” he said.
“The studies have shown, thereafter, that if you go closer to 12 weeks, you’re getting into the 90s. So, it’s not a very large drop in efficacy, but maximal efficacy will be getting closer to that 12-week interval. And that’s what we will aim for. But, again, it depends on the delivery of that second tranche of AstraZeneca.”
The health minister said that the first 16,000 people could be vaccinated within two and a half weeks.
“We will be ramping up from Tuesday, within hopefully a week, to start vaccinating about 1,000 persons per day, it could be more, depending on acceptance and so on,” he said.
He added that within the next two days, the ministry would release details about how people who were eligible for phase one of the vaccination could register to receive their shots.
“It is going to be a strict appointment system in the first instance,” Deyalsingh said
The appointment system would be administered online, in person at 21 selected clinical sites and by phone. Phone numbers to the 21 sites would be published for members of the public who were not in public non-communicable disease treatment clinics to call for a vaccine appointment.
The health minister said that in this first instance, there would be no provision to deliver the vaccine to people with mobility issues who could not go to any of the vaccination sites.
“Each recipient of a vaccine has to physically come to our site be vaccinated and be physically monitored for 30 minutes just to ensure for that person’s safety they aren’t suffering any adverse reactions,” he said.
“So then when we get that body of knowledge and we are comfortable that we can move further down and probably do mass vaccination sites, in communities, in homes, then we can do that then.
“But in the first instance, we want to collect as much data as possible to show and demonstrate that anaphylaxis, however rare, we have it managed in a facility where the person can be resuscitated in the unlikely event that you have an adverse event.”
Both the prime minister and minister of health are expected to receive their jabs publicly on Tuesday.
The health ministry reported 22 new cases of Covid-19 today, which brings the total since March 2020 to 8,026 positive cases.
Twenty-two patients are in hospital and six are in step-down facilities. There are 287 people in state quarantine facilities and 219 in-home self-isolation.
The total number of fatalities since March 2020 is 142.