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A health worker prepares Moderna coronavirus vaccines before vaccinating staff health workers at Clinica Universitaria, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

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While the official deployment of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility is carded to take place in March, some countries could receive initial doses up to a month earlier through a “first wave” pilot programme.

This was revealed by Pan American Health Organisation assistant director Jarbas Barbosa during a press conference on Wednesday.

“We have an initiative that’s called the first wave initiative that will provide a very limited amount of the vaccine in February to some countries,” he said.

He said a determination on which countries would receive these doses would be made by the end of this week based on who is ready and willing to accept them.

“This is a first wave initiative so let’s not make a confusion between this first wave and the first regular deployment of COVAX. This would be (in) March,” he said.

He cautioned that the anticipated arrival of vaccines cannot yet be used to control the outbreak so it is important for countries with increasing transmission “to strengthen measures that we know can prevent the transmission.”

These measures include the wearing of face masks, social distancing and avoiding crowded spaces. The simultaneous use of these initial doses for vulnerable populations and continued adherence to public health measures were key to fighting the outbreak.

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne called for the strengthening of adherence to the public health measures, especially as the Pan-American region crossed one million COVID-19 related deaths.

“The loss of one million people from this virus should serve as an urgent call that we must do more to protect ourselves and each other from getting sick. This includes strong calls to action to reinforce the public health measures that are needed now in each of the places that are seeing outbreaks,” Etienne said.

“We need to redouble our efforts to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19 and subsequent deaths.”

T&T joined the COVAX facility in September after a downpayment of US $1.4 million was made by the government. Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh also noted previously that the country was also seeking vaccines outside of the facility through bilateral talks with vaccine companies such as Pfizer, Oxford, AstraZeneca, Sinofarm, Moderna and Sanofi.