Caroni East MP, Dr Rishad Seecheran has expressed concern over the news that the 33,600 Covid-19 vaccines Trinidad and Tobago received from the COVAX facility will expire on May 31, 2021.
This is before the second doses are to be administered.
Seecharan, in a release, said “What is noteworthy is that the Minister of Health appeared to be completely blindsided by this revelation. (CMO) Dr. Parasram said the manufacturer had said the second dose should be administered within 21 to 28 days but the new recommendation of the World Health Organization was for between eight to 12 weeks.”
Pan American Health Organization/WHO Country Representative Dr Erica Wheeler said by the end of May 100,800 doses from COVAX should be delivered to T&T.
In an effort to balance the goals of preventing deaths and preserving societal functioning, it is recommended that aged 60 years and older as well as frontline essential workers, such as grocery store, public transit, and postal service workers, be vaccinated as soon as possible.
But, Seecheran said the path to herd immunity through widespread vaccination (estimated to be around 70 % of the population) will be a long and arduous process.
“Until herd immunity is achieved, we must continue adhering to social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and when the time comes, receive the vaccine, for ourselves, our families, and our communities.”
He said “This Government has avoided strict timelines, knowing that the vaccine procurement has been bungled. The Government should now consider delaying the second dose to those who have received a first dose, with the objective of giving a first dose to the maximum number of citizens.”
This, he said, should have been done since the initial gift of 2,000 vaccines from Barbados. “We had outbreaks in the Customs Division and the Police Service since first dispensing half of this initial supply, with the next half locked in refrigerated storage.
All of this batch should now be used to vaccinate our most vulnerable, as we currently have 33,600 doses of the same Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines in the country.”
Seecharan pointed out that the United Kingdom initially planned to give people their second dose within three weeks of their first dose, following the evidence collected in trials.
In early January 2021, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and the chief medical officers of the four nations, it decided to delay the second dose to within three months, in order to give more people a first dose more quickly.
The JCVI cited studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which suggested the first dose alone offers good protection in the short-term, while the second dose offers longer durability.
Seecheran said “A decision must be made of the potential benefit of the “first dose first” strategy, and if this is a risk worth taking.”
“This would enable 35,000 of our most vulnerable to immediately get their first dose and achieve 76 % immunity against Covid-19. This would allow second doses to be administered the end of May 2020, with the remaining 100,800 doses from COVAX.”
The MP said “The US is considering a “first dose first” strategy like the UK’s, as are Germany and Ireland. We here in Trinidad and Tobago should seriously consider giving most of our citizens some form of immunity as soon as possible, as no concrete agreement have been forthcoming in attaining 1 million doses in 2021.”