Trinidad and Tobago has been allocated an initial 100,000 to 120,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX Facility, which will be delivered by March, according to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
He said over the weekend that this initial allocation will provide vaccines for at least 50,000 people, as half of the vaccines will be reserved to ensure that each recipient receives the required two doses.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be effective and can be stored in the standard vaccine refrigerator, which maintains a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. The distribution process for this vaccine would therefore align closely to existing vaccine protocols.
“While it is noted that the vaccine will be distributed after it receives final World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Authorisation, this announcement is a major step in securing doses of the vaccine for the Trinidad and Tobago population, especially in the face of international COVID-19 vaccine supply challenges,” the Ministry said.
The Ministry of Health has taken a three-pronged approach to secure COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX Facility, bilateral discussions with vaccine suppliers and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) COVID-19 Vaccine Initiative.
The Ministry said it is far advanced in its preparation to receive and distribute the vaccine locally. Necessary consumables for vaccination have already been stockpiled in significant quantities including 1 million alcohol swabs and 1.5 million syringes.
“At this time, the Ministry of Health has in-country capacity to store substantial quantities of doses of COVID-19 vaccines: over 300,000 at 2 to 8 degrees, 200,000 at -20 degrees and 200,000 at -70 degrees Celsius.
“While the Ministry has already made significant steps in preparation for the national vaccine roll-out, it recognizes that a public/private sector partnership is required to administer vaccines to the national population in the shortest time. This will give Trinidad and Tobago the best chance of mass protection from the evolving COVID-19 variants,” the Health Ministry.
National COVID-19 vaccine deployment will be implemented using two parallel pathways – the first managed directly by the Public Health Sector and the second managed by the Private Sector with oversight by the Ministry of Health.
Additionally, while 23 public health facilities have been identified as future vaccination sites, plans are in place for the creation of four mass vaccination sites.