The news that T&T, along with other Caribbean countries, will in three weeks receive COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) could not have come sooner for this country.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh recently announced that T&T expects to receive 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines and not the 100,000 originally promised for the first batch.
The doses are part of the Covax facility that T&T has signed on to and which has been beset by constant delays.
There is a growing unease about the Government’s handling of the vaccine rollout, as we have watched our Caribbean brothers and sisters go about their business of vaccinating their populations against the virus in the hope that lives and livelihoods could recover.
We know only too well the sheer bacchanal surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccines from India and the question of WHO approval status and whether offers of free vaccines were made, received, turned down, or was all a big mix-up.
At the end of the day, others have gotten vaccines from India and T&T is not one of those countries.
Johnson and Johnson’s single jab, which last week received WHO approval, was yesterday announced as being part of the Covax facility.
Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Dr Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr said his organisation is working with the countries and the producers to expedite the process. He said T&T is ready and waiting for the deployment from the producer to now take place.
Getting enough vaccines to create herd immunity must take place over a relatively short period of time if, as the Government has said, it trusts the science.
The reason speed is important is because you want to firstly avoid new variants being produced from mutating virus. The other reality is that unless we have herd immunity, we cannot stop the virus and it means we are all at risk and thirdly, we cannot continue to live under the type of restrictions that are choking businesses. This will do permanent damage to the country’s economy.
Only yesterday, it was revealed that a new variant in France could not be detected by PCR testing. An ominous development.
The Government must see that we are all in this fight together and that means working with all interest groups to get the best outcomes for the country.
It is perhaps because of the urgency of the moment that the Supermarket’ Association has said it is working to vaccinate its 30,000 workers and ANSA McAL, the parent company of Guardian Media, announced its intention to vaccinate all its employees and their families subject to the availability of vaccines and in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
Perhaps the arrival of vaccines may lead to the Government rolling back some of the restrictions, like the sale of alcohol in restaurants or having a drink at a bar.
We have managed to return the country’s COVID cases to low levels following the post-general election spike and even the Christmas period showed that there has been no great increase.
The return of people to the beaches and even some level of team sports were all good moves, now the Government has to go further and open up more of the economy.