MELISSA DOUGHTY AND PAULA LINDO
Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne said he took the opportunity of being at the launch of the Commonwealth Garden to speak with Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu about vaccines for TT.
The launch of the garden took place at Wildflower Park, Serpentine Road, St Clair, on Friday morning.
Browne said, “The most distinguished High Commissioner of the Republic of India was a guest here at today’s event and we had a very nice exchange.
“And I did take the opportunity to remind him, once again, that we are awaiting a response from the Government of India to our requests for provision of vaccines for the people of TT.”
Browne said the commissioner once again indicated that he had received no response as yet but would continue to liaise with his headquarters and provide appropriate feedback in due course.
In media reports on Tuesday, Browne said he had not received a definitive response on TT’s request for a vaccine donation from India.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February asking for a donation of AstraZeneca covid19 vaccines for TT.
Asked if the request by Persad-Bissessar had had a positive or negative effect on the Government's request, Browne said he was not in a position to speak on the Indian Government's behalf and did not wish to speculate on any impact or effect “on the follow-up request that would have gone after the Prime Minister’s initial letter.”
In February, Barbados donated 2,000 doses to TT from a shipment of 100,000 vaccines it had received from the Indian Government. This began the first and, to date, only set of vaccinations in TT.
TT is expected to receive a batch of 33,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses at the end of March through the Covax facility.
The additional 77,000 of 108,000 doses sought through the Covax facility should arrive at between the end of April and early May, the Health Minister has said.
Speaking in Parliament on Friday, the Prime Minister also said there was no update on TT’s request for the provision of WHO-approved vaccines from India. He was responding to a question from Oropouche MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.
Dr Rowley said discussions with producers in India and China are continuing, along with bilateral discussions with major producers of approved vaccines, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
“These discussions are ongoing, and depending on how far those discussions have progressed, there are confidentiality agreements in place. We will update the country once we have firm commitments from any of these discussions. There are few producers of vaccines in the world and their supply has largely been contracted out and bought out by large contracts in the major wealthy countries. We are in an arrangement to get vaccines in the Covax, and even the volumes we expected in the Covax are not being satisfied because of supplies from the approved manufacturers being cornered by the large countries. We anticipate that in the very near future we will get our first shipment of vaccines in Covax, there will be a continuous flow after that and the market will improve as more vaccines become available.
He said government expects that by mid-year the question of availability of vaccines will recede.
“We are looking at about mid-year by May, June, July, August, that the availability and flow of vaccines would be such that we will be very busy vaccinating the population and we expect that the marketplace, the availability of vaccines in the marketplace towards the end of the year would be such that it would not be a problem because there would be more suppliers and larger volumes which are no longer commandeered but available to small countries like ours.”
He said he hoped that when the vaccines arrived, people would be willing to get vaccinated.
“What we’re looking at is getting to a level of vaccinating in terms of actually having people vaccinated is approximately 600,000 or 700,000, because that would mean we are in the order of 60 and 75 per cent, and biology will tell us that is where we are in the range of herd immunity. Hopefully people will get themselves vaccinated and we will move from a low percentage to upwards of 60 per cent and then we will be able to do a lot of things, including taking steps to open our borders.
Rowley reiterated that he was not prepared to use vaccines which have not been approved by the World Health Organisation.