Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh at Saturday's news conference.

After a disastrous attempt at a first-come, first-serve vaccination programme for elderly people last week, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has announced a new vaccination programme.

Speaking during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, on Saturday, Deyalsingh said the new programme will be aimed at senior citizens over 65 years old and will begin on Wednesday.

The new programme will be carried out at 36 health centres run by five Regional Health Authorities (RHAs), Deyalsingh said.

“Persons 65 and over, we are going to target you because we have in our RHA databases persons who are 65 and over, our hospital clinics, we do have some people 65 and over already on our database waiting for an appointment, we will be contacting you and asking you to come to the sites,” the Minister said.

He said elderly people are no longer required to visit health centres and line up or be inconvenienced.

Deyalsingh said this new programme will also target the residents of homes for the elderly across the country. He said to date, 750 residents and caretakers at these homes have already been vaccinated.

The programme will also target shut-ins.

“Starting from Wednesday, we are going to target the shut-ins, we are going to you, in your communities, in your homes, via our district health visitor programme, in this adjusted process, we are coming to you, a significant turnaround from what existed,” he said.

However, the number of vaccines available in this tranch is limited as Deyalsingh said only 20,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine will be allocated at this time.

Those 20,000 vaccines come from a shipment of 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines expected to be delivered in T&T on Monday afternoon.

Because the Sinopharm vaccine requires patients to receive two doses to be considered fully vaccinated, 150,000 of that shipment will be held to guarantee second doses for those who have already received their first jabs.

From the remaining 50,000, Deyalsingh said the Supermarket Association will be allocated 5,000 doses, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association will be allocated 4,500 doses, Tobago will be allocated 3,000 doses, the construction sector will be allocated 5,000, bankers will be allocated 2,000, CEPEP will be allocated 2,500 doses, private security officers will be allocated 5,000 doses and the Diabetes Association will be allocated 3,000 doses for its members who are over 65.

Deyalsingh said the Ministry’s current vaccination goal by July is to have 188,900 adults fully vaccinated. He said this is Goal One and is subject to change as more vaccines become available.

As of 4 pm yesterday, Deyalsingh said 150,692 people have received their first dose of the vaccine and 9,843 people have been fully vaccinated.

The Minister said in the next two to three weeks, a new IT platform to accommodate the Ministry’s appointment system should be launched.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also sought to give assurance to those elderly citizens who do not receive calls to get vaccinated in the coming days.

He said, “I am sure we have many more than 20,000 in that category, so understand from now, it is not everybody in the category that is going to get because we just don’t have enough vaccines but on this go around with the 20,000, we will have a smoother, clearer arrangement and for those who didn’t get serviced in this group, in the next group, rest assured that we will come back to it again because it is governed by the availability of the vaccines.”

CMO: Officials to wait and see if there is a COVID spike from mass gatherings

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, meanwhile, said health officials will have to wait and see if there is a COVID-19 spike from the three days of mass gatherings this week as elderly citizens across the country flooded health centres trying to get vaccinated.

Parasram was responding to questions from Guardian Media.

“Whenever you have a gathering of people, where social distancing and masking is not there, there is a potential for spread, it requires naïve people, meaning people who are not infected, it requires people who are infected as well,” Parasram said.

He said there are many unknown factors but added that when he looked at the photos from those gatherings, most people were wearing their masks.

However, he said health officials will have to wait to see what happens in two weeks.

“Again it is sporadic gatherings in small localities, it’s not all over the country, it was in particular health centres that it occurred so we will wait the time and see what happens but again, with the mask-wearing, it should mitigate some of the spread that could have potentially occurred,” Parasram said.