Head of the Department of Internal Medicine at the Scarborough General Hospital Dr Ogonna Okeke says citizens should take the AstraZeneca covid19 vaccine if only to ensure the TT economy is opened up and life is returned to some semblance of normalcy.
Okeke was among six frontline healthcare professionals who received the vaccine on camera at the Scarborough Health Centre, Bacolet, Tobago, on Saturday, as part of a wider initiative to prevent the spread of the virus on the island.
They were among 100 healthcare workers on the island who have been targeted to receive 200 doses of the vaccine.
On Wednesday, 100 healthcare professionals in Trinidad were administered the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the 2,000 doses TT donated from Barbados.
Okeke said citizens should be grateful they now have access to a vaccine to fight the pandemic.
“So, we should take advantage of this vaccine if we really want to open up our economy and get back to our way of life as before,” he told reporters.
Okeke said apart from giving people an opportunity to withstand the virus, the availability of the vaccine also offers hope.
“Last year, 2020, was the year of covid19. We all reacted to the worldwide pandemic. But this year, science has given us a chance to fight back. In this case we have the vaccine.
“There is a saying that united we stand, divided we fall and a small country like Tobago to get vaccines when most of the world has not seen vaccines yet.”
He said the TT and Barbados governments should be commended for “giving us a chance to fight back.”
Okeke said while he understands people’s concerns about taking the vaccine, mainly through what they have seen on social media, “I would strongly recommend it because we have to follow science.”
Head, Accident & Emergency, at the hospital Dr Ian Sammy said he was happy to receive the vaccine and endorsed Okeke’s sentiment about the need to follow the science.
“I am not really one who believes that we should be coercing anyone into making what is ultimately a personal choice. However, I believe that once we give people the information, then they will be able to make an informed choice,” he said.
“My own choice was both personal and also with consideration for what is best for the country.”
Sammy, who revealed he suffers with high blood pressure, said covid19 is a risk to him.
He said he also works in the Accident & Emergency Department where the staff is also at high risk of contracting the virus.
“So, I knew that getting the vaccine was the right thing for me after looking at all the information.”
Sammy said like any other vaccine, the AstraZeneca presents a small risk of side effects.
“But I believe that the protection it offers far outweighs any risk.”
Sammy said people who have taken the vaccine should not become complacent.
“The only thing that I am worried a little bit about is that I don’t want people to believe that after getting the vaccine, they could walk out there, throw away the mask, do what they want.
“No, that is not it. We have to listen to the people who are guiding us. They will tell us whether it’s safe to whatever would be the new normal.”
Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the arrival of the first batch of covid19 vaccines to Tobago is a cause for hope and celebration.
“Let me say today is a day of celebration and moreso, a day of hope,” she said.
“Celebration in the fact that for the second time we have been able to record zero cases of covid19 on the island.
“And so that tells us that our systems are working. But moreso, that our people are following the protocols that we have been communicating and also the health regulations.”
Saying it will reduce the spread of the virus, Davidson-Celestine urged Tobagonians to take the vaccine.
She said she has already made up her mind to be vaccinated when the second batch of vaccines arrives in Tobago.
“For me, I am a part of the second batch. Today (Saturday), there are about 100 doses. This morning, we have 32 persons who will receive the vaccines and then in the course of the week the others will be distributed accordingly.
“And so, when the second batch arrives on the island, I will be a part of that procedure because today, it is about ensuring that the medical practitioners, those who interface directly with persons who are likely to be covid19 positive, would be vaccinated.”
The second batch of vaccines targets people suffering with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension as well as people over 60.
Davidson-Celestine said people will be able to access the vaccines at the Scarborough, Roxborough and Canaan health centres.