A nurse and other health workers register to take the COVID-19 vaccine during the NCRHA’s public vaccination of over 100 health workers at the Couva Hospital on Wednesday.

The Government and Opposition are now fighting over Barbados-donated COVID-19 vaccines.

The latest war of words between Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday was over Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s mistaken comments about the AstraZeneca vaccines, sent by India to Barbados.

These were given to frontline health workers on Wednesday. At the function, Deyalsingh thanked India for the vaccines. He later apologised stating the vaccines were actually among those gifted by India to Barbados who then offered T&T 2,000 vaccines.

Rowley’s Facebook page on Wednesday night also thanked Barbados. However, Deyalsingh was roasted on social media including by UNC activists.

Yesterday Persad-Bissessar followed the stream yesterday calling for Rowley to immediately fire Deyalsingh for inexcusable and false statements.

She said for T&T to “rely on vaccine donations from Barbados is a damning indictment on Government.”

“If we are to believe the minister that he didn’t know the source of the vaccines his own ministry administered to workers, he’s clearly incompetent and unfit for his job. It perhaps also explains the shambolic manner in which the Rowley regime bungled the response to the pandemic. At the current rate, T&T will be the last country in the world to be fully vaccinated.”

Persad-Bissessar said it was “puzzling” why Government didn’t approach India for vaccines like Barbados. UNC MP Rishad Seecheran called for T&T to obtain vaccines from India.

Subsequently, Rowley via statement said, “This is pure mischief and the usual disruptive behaviour of a deranged Opposition Leader struggling for relevance.”

“As all CARICOM countries are busily engaged in positioning ourselves to obtain vaccines from a turbulent pandemic market environment, we in T&T are careful to obtain and accept vaccines ONLY from sources which have WHO approval and certification. This is for the protection of our population.

“It was in this situation of constant regional communication that Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados indicated to me (not the Minister of Health) that Barbados was offered 50,000 doses of a vaccine from India and that she was making a gift gesture of 2000 of these doses available to TT for ‘essential persons’ (including the PM and Cabinet).”

Rowley added, “I accepted the offer knowing that not all suppliers of these products from India had received WHO clearance. I anticipated and it did come to pass that by the time we got the items and waited a while, the WHO only recently certified the source supplier in India and thus we were able to use these vaccines, not on the Cabinet, but on our frontline health caregivers.”

“Our national program remains on track as we have continuously informed the national population. Monies have been paid, local preparations have been made, orders and negotiations outside of the COVAX supply are currently underway and we are close to receiving and using our anticipated supply.

“Vaccines are currently said to be available from many sources around the world, not all of which carry the quality assurance stamp of the WHO. It is up to individual governments to determine how they treat with the various sources and supply chains. In the case of T&T, in protection of our citizens, we will maintain our policy of working within the COVAX, WHO and PAHO and expect to receive our safe quotas from myriad sources as soon as they become available.

“We will ignore the persistent attempts of the irresponsible Opposition whose only aim is to undermine the national effort and disturb the people’s psyche. Notwithstanding the best efforts of the Opposition Leader and her few followers, the people can continue to rest assured that their interests are well served in the management of this pandemic challenges by a Government which has been careful at the beginning and remains competent and caring to the end.”