Opposition Member of Parliament Dr Lackram Bodoe is warning of the possibility of a local COVID-19 variant emerging here.
He sounded the warning at a news conference hosted by the United National Congress (UNC) at Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
“The longer this vaccine vacuum remains the faster it will be filled by variants of concern and I am also worried as a medical practitioner about the possibility of local variants developing and I say this carefully but we have seen the evidence and we have seen for example in India where because of the large amount of community spread that in an attempt to survive the virus has mutated and undergone mutation and now you have your own local strain,” Bodoe said.
Asked how likely he felt that a local variant could emerge, Bodoe said: “I am hoping it is not a high possibility and I think it was important to raise it especially if we are going to take a longer time for the vaccinations so I think that should be a prompt and a hint to the government to again address the issue of procurement of those additional and much-needed vaccines.”
Bodoe said the countries that have been able to successfully navigate the pandemic so far were able to vaccinate the majority of their citizens in a timely manner.
“And this is the elephant in the room we need to address. Although the figures indicate that we have already vaccinated just over 40,000 citizens it is a far cry from where we need to be,” he said.
Bodoe said the country will need to vaccinate around 700,000 of the adult population to be able to achieve herd immunity.
As such Bodoe said the country cannot afford to lapse when it comes to acquiring vaccines.
“We need to review, look at all of the options and ensure we find our place and our space in that line to get vaccines when they become available. We also need to look at whether there is a role for the private sector to be engaged as announced previously,” he said.
He called on the government to explore all the avenues to ensure we get the vaccines we need.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the government has decided to use its remaining AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, which were being reserved as second doses for those who received the initial jab, as first doses for others, in a bid to continue the country’s national vaccination drive.
“This government needs to pick back up the ball they dropped in this vaccine procurement race and they need to run with it in a focused direction and with purpose,” Bodoe said.