Manager of the expanded program on immunization Grace Sookchand injects the first COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Keisha Prevatt-Gomez during the NCRHA’s public vaccination of 100 health workers at the Couva Hospital, Uriah Butler Highway yesterday.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh described yesterday as a red-letter day for this country, claiming it marked, “the beginning of when T&T takes control of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Indicating the authorities had so far been managing the pandemic through public health measures such as the wearing of face masks, social distancing, and advising people to remain at home if ill, he said there were many countries that were not in as good a place as T&T.

The roll-out of yesterday’s vaccination programme targeted high-risk individuals such as frontline workers who treat COVID-19 positive patients.

Deyalsingh said the vaccination exercise formed part of government’s commitment to keeping healthcare workers safe and demonstrated the need to care for them; reinforce safety and efficacy; and start the ball rolling to have vaccinated persons show their colleagues their faith in the vaccination programme.

The minister said while there will not be a 100 per cent acceptance by the population, people need to understand the need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The storage requirement for the two-dose Astrazeneca vaccine is between two and eight degrees celsius and according to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, it can be stored at a normal refrigerated temperature.

He said each vial contains a total of ten doses and once punctured, it must be used up within a six-hour period.

Those who received the vaccine yesterday will receive their second dose within the next eight to 12 weeks.

Observed for 30 minutes yesterday to record if there were any reactions or side effects after being vaccinated, Parasram said this initial batch of persons could face possible monitoring for up to one year afterwards.

Additionally, he said emergency numbers were available for persons to contact if there are any adverse reactions.

Chief Executive Officer, North Central Regional Health Authority, Davlin Thomas said they were elated to afford frontline staff additional protection and he expressed confidence in their ability to execute a seamless rollout according to WHO guidelines.