Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh chats with a lady waiting to receive her COVID-19 vaccine, at the NAPA mass vaccination site, on Friday 23 July 2021. (Image: CARISA LEE)

A call is being made for people to arm themselves with COVID-19 vaccines before the arrival of the Delta variant, which Government says is inevitable.

However, health officials are warning that there is no guarantee that the highly transmissible variant is not already here in Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking at today’s Ministry of Health press briefing, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh warned that just because the variant has not yet been detected, does not mean it is not among us already.

It was a sentiment shared by Professor of Molecular Genetics and Virology at The University of the West Indies, Dr Christine Carrington…

“Unless we screen every single person in Trinidad, you are not going to detect the first case of the Delta Variant in Trinidad.  There is a bit of a lag time between detection and when a virus arrives in a country, and that is not peculiar to Trinidad and Tobago. That occurs everywhere,” Professor Carrington explained.

She revealed that at the point when a variant is first detected, research often shows that it may have been in the given population for as long as two weeks to a month, with other cases showing up when investigations are carried out.

Professor Carrington said it is critical that the virus is contained now and not allowed to spread widely among the population.

“If we do not control the virus through vaccination and we have rampant replication and spread of this virus in the population, the chance of other variants arising that maybe even better at escaping the vaccine, that chance increases,” she warned.

Professor Carrington maintains the solution involves vaccinating as many people in the population as quickly as humanly possible can and keeping down the virus levels, to reduce the chances of infection with the disease.

As at 4 pm on Friday 23 July 2021, some 181 positive COVID-19 cases were recorded, and 326,276 people would have received their first COVID vaccine dose, while 179,382 would have been fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition, some 886 people at homes for the elderly have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.