PRESIDENT Paula-Mae Weekes, her mother Phyllis Weekes, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Secretary for Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine were among the 1,053 people who received the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday.
At the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre shortly before being inoculated, Deyalsingh said the Government will increase the sites in the coming weeks to allow for more than 1,000 daily doses to be administered.
"The target of a 1000 a day is the initial target. It does not mean we will be stuck at 1,000 per day forever. We chose that number because of the number of vaccines, but as more become available and we ramp up the sites those numbers will escalate. So it is not going to take years to achieve herd immunity."
Deyalsingh added that in about two weeks he will share plans for mass vaccination sites as the Government intends to "double and triple the amount of vaccination sites" within a month’s time.
After receiving his first vaccine shot, he told reporters he was feeling "very good."
"I am feeling stronger, feeling faster, don’t know about smarter," he joked.
Deyalsingh received his vaccine at around 3.30 pm, after which he was monitored for 30 minutes in keeping with policy.
Later in the evening, on state television TTT, he said he had not yet experienced any side effects such as headache or fever.
The Prime Minister was also scheduled to receive his first dose on Tuesday, but reported that he had tested positive for the virus. Addressing rumours that Dr Rowley’s announcement that he was covid19 positive was done to avoid being vaccinated, Deyalsingh scoffed, saying that is untrue.
"That is absolutely old talk. The PM is a very upright straightforward person and he contracted covid19."
He added that the Office of the Prime Minister will be updating the country on the PM’s condition, as was done when he was hospitalised in January.
On where the PM may have contracted the virus, Deyalsingh said contact tracing is ongoing.
Deyalsingh also addressed concerns over reports that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine contributes to blood clots in some patients.
"What needs to be highlighted is that the benefits of the vaccines, in terms of preventing deaths, far outweigh whatever minimal risks there are.”
When asked if he was personally afraid, he said: “If I was, I would not have been here. I have absolutely no fear in taking the vaccine and will lead by example."
He also thanked the public for having the intelligence to trust the vaccine and the science saying that as at 2 pm, 727 people had already received the vaccine on the first rollout. He said he was expecting the 1,000 doses to be exceeded by the end of the day.
Earlier, Deyalsingh said the increased rollout will begin with the North West Regional Health Authority, since three of its health centres – Oxford Street, George Street and Woodbrook – lack the space to do covid19 vaccinations together with regular activities while maintaining physical distancing.
On March 30, Trinidad and Tobago received 33,600 doses of the vaccine through the Covax facility. This was the second set of vaccines that TT received after the Government of Barbados donated 2,000 in February after that country received a gift of 100,000 doses from India. The 2,000 vaccines were used to vaccinate frontline workers.
TT is expected to receive a donation of 40,000 Covishield vaccines from India by April 12. China has also promised 100,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine, which is awaiting World Health Organization (WHO) approval.