It’s Vaccination Week in the Americas and the Pan American Health Organisation is urging people to get vaccinated to bring the world closer to an end to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 1.03 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, equal to 13 doses for every 100 people. But there is a stark gap between vaccination programmes in different countries, with some yet to report a single dose being administered.
PAHO director Dr Carissa Ettiene lamented yesterday that over 700 million people in the Americas remain at risk because of inequitable vaccine distribution.
The slogan of this year’s vaccination week is “Vaccines Bringing us Closer,” but the programme rollout across the globe has done little to bring us closer. The fact is there is a huge divide with many countries still unable to access vaccines.
COVID-19 has already claimed more than 1.4 million lives in this region, with T&T registering 159 deaths up to yesterday. It is clear the vaccines are critically needed.
Yesterday, the United States revealed it will begin sharing its stock of 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines with the world once it clears federal safety reviews in the coming months.
In Trinidad and Tobago, our vaccine rollout started in early April and up to yesterday 41,549 single doses had been administered. That’s about three point one per cent of the national population. Yesterday health officials said rollout of the second shots will begin on June 7th. T&T got 33,600 vaccines from COVAX and 40,000 doses from India and initially, got a gift of 2,000 vaccines from Barbados.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced there were five new cases of the Brazilian Variant, bringing to nine the number of cases of this dangerous strain to this country. According to the ministry, there is no epidemiological link to the cases identified in the varying geographical locations in this country.
Be that as it may, it is a deeply worrying development.
For T&T to achieve the required herd immunity of 70% of the population, it means 900,000 people must be inoculated. At the current rate of accessing vaccines, this could take years in T&T.
One can only hope that the countries with the wherewithal to share vaccines help other countries achieve a level of vaccination that would help curb the spread of the virus.
Now is not the time to be hoarding vaccines. The world needs to work together to fight this virus that continues to mutate.
It is time the Ministry of Health steps up its public education campaign to ensure people who are hesitant about getting the vaccine are reassured it is safe. The benefits far outweigh the risks. Stopping the pandemic requires using all the tools available to us. This means we must continue to wear our masks, social distance, sanitise, wash our hands and if we can get the vaccine do so. As we, like many others, await more vaccines, our way of life must reflect the real danger posed by the virus. We must take nothing for granted.