Dr Joel Teelucksingh

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A medical doctor has suggested that T&T’s allocation of over 100,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the COVAX facility is exciting news for the country and its fight against the pandemic.

Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, announced Saturday that an initial 100,000 to 120,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to the country by March 2021.

Internal medicine specialist and host of CNC3’s Ask the Doctor programme Dr Joel Teelucksingh said: “It’s very promising, it’s exciting and it brings a potential strategy to exit the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said it was a stepping stone to one day bring an end to the pandemic.

He noted, however, that this would not be sufficient to create herd immunity to the virus. To do that, almost two million doses would be required. According to Ministry of Health officials, these initial doses are carded to help protect the most vulnerable in the country. At the top of the priority list are those most likely to be infected by the virus such as healthcare workers and those most likely to have an adverse outcome from an infection such as those in the high-risk category. This is primarily the elderly and those with comorbidities.

On Thursday Germany’s vaccine commission said the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should not be administered to people older than 65 years citing there is insufficient data on its effectiveness for this age group.

However, CNN reported that an AstraZeneca spokesperson assured “latest analyses of clinical trial data for the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine support efficacy in the over 65 years age group.”

The vaccine has an efficacy of between 60 and 70 per cent. Despite being dwarfed by other vaccines such as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s which both have efficacy rates upwards of 90 per cent, the T&T Medical Association’s public relations officer Dr Keegan Bhaggan said it did not mean it was no good.

“The efficacy is still reasonable. And the reason I would say that is because we give an annual flu shot every year and we do not ever doubt how effective that flu shot and it is effective. It works well and we’d continue to do it every year. But the…efficacy rate is around 50 per cent,” he said.

According to Dr Teelucksingh, it was all about “weighing the pros and cons and the advantages and disadvantages of receiving any vaccine.”