The Government’s announcement that it was going to receive a gift of 40,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from the government and people of India and another 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines from China is a welcome development.
Vaccination of the public is seen all over the world as the means by which we will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
While mask-wearing, social distancing and special attention to hygiene play a role in mitigating the transmission of the virus, it is not the solution.
The present school of thought is that the solution to COVID-19 and the deleterious effect it is having on lives and livelihoods is to develop herd immunity through sufficient vaccination of global populations.
No one can deny that this country is behind the eight-ball as it relates to vaccination.
Per capita, we are last in the region in vaccination and to date, not even our frontline workers, seniors, or medical staff have been sufficiently vaccinated.
When you compare this reality to other countries in the region that have received vaccines due to the generosity of the people of India, what is emerging more and more are the missteps of the Government in the procurement of the vaccines.
We are pleased that the country is finally poised to receive 140,000 vaccines but so much of what has been said requires more scrutiny.
Nowhere in the announcement on the initiative revealed when the vaccines are going to be here or an approximate date. This is a major issue since we have had so many promises from Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, only for him to constantly revise the dates and the amount we are to receive.
We are yet to receive any vaccines other than those donated by the government of Barbados to T&T. That donation was also the subject of controversy, with the Minister of Health misspeaking about where the donation came from.
The unseemly back and forth between the Government and the High Commissioner of India to T&T was also regrettable and we are happy that good sense has prevailed and mere days after a meeting between the High Commissioner and the Foreign Affairs Minister, the vaccines that we were told were not available are now coming.
There is also the issue surrounding the acceptance of the Chinese vaccine, which has not yet been approved by the World Health Organisation for emergency use.
One of the initial reasons the Government gave for its reluctance to accept the Indian-produced AstraZeneca vaccine was because it was then yet to be approved by the WHO.
That the Government is now saying it is putting in place arrangements to bring in the Chinese vaccines that are themselves awaiting WHO approval for emergency use, appears to be at best flawed.
Maybe one can come to the conclusion that they have learned lessons from the process and the Government wants to get its order for the vaccines in pending WHO approval.
So yes there are some signs of hope but more needs to be done and more questions remain to be answered.
We thank the two governments for their assistance and our acceptance shows that help is not always about begging.