Suriname’s acting director of Health Dr Rakesh Sukul, left, and PAHO/WHO representative in Suriname, Dr Karen Lewis-Bell, with the shipment which arrived at the Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport in Paramaribo on Friday.

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The much anticipated Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility are expected to arrive in the country this evening.

Technical Director of the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds told the media yesterday that the schedule remained the same.

“At this moment, we haven’t had any change in the scheduled arrival so while I would not say 100 per cent, we have not been advised of any changes to the schedule at this point in time,” Dr Hinds said.

Last week, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) listed the delivery to arrive by March 31.

Other schedules, including the delivery of COVAX vaccines to Guyana yesterday, have largely been on schedule.

The most conclusive statement on the doses arrival came from Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh during a press conference with the Prime Minister on Saturday when he indicated the doses should arrive on Tuesday.

However, even then there wasn’t any definitive commitment as uncertainty still loomed.

“The current estimated date of arrival is Tuesday the 30th at 6.10 pm if everything goes according to plans—if all the flights are on time if there are no weather delays or anything like that,” Minister Deyalsingh said then.

On Saturday, Minister Deyalsingh indicated that once the 33,600 doses were received they would be split into two batches; half being stored at the C40 Central Stores in Chaguaramas and the other at the newly built chiller at the Couva Medical and Multi-Training Facility. They would be escorted and guarded by the Defence Force.

If they arrive today as planned, 3,000 doses will be sent to Tobago on Thursday. Over the Easter Weekend, doses would also be sent to the 21 distribution sites across the country to begin inoculations by Tuesday, April 6.

“Those 33,000 doses as per COVAX policy based on equity, vaccinating those who have the highest exposure and who have the highest exposure in the first instance we will continue our frontline healthcare workers…simultaneously we would start to vaccinate those persons over 60 in our non-communicable diseases clinics in the public healthcare sector,” Minister Deyalsingh said on Saturday.

Trinidad and Tobago signed on to the COVAX facility on September 18, 2020, and made a downpayment of US$1.477 million.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated that India would gift T&T 40,000 doses of the COVISHIELD (made using Oxford-AstraZeneca formula) vaccines manufactured at the Serum Institute of India. However, there was no date of receipt announced. He also indicated China promised T&T 100,000 doses of Sinopharm made by Beijing’s Sinovac Biotech once it attains the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency use listing as required for use in T&T’s population.