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Health officials at the Arima District Health Facility organise vaccines after it was delivered to the facility recently.

The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine roll-out programme will begin across T&T today, with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh being among those who will receive the first jabs of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine.

Rowley is due to receive his vaccine in Tobago, while Deyalsingh is scheduled to receive his around 3 pm at the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre in Champ Fleurs.

Describing this as a historic day for T&T, Deyalsingh yesterday praised the staff of the Ministry of Health for their efforts to ensure the 21 designated vaccine locations were ready to begin receiving and inoculating patients today.

The vaccine roll-out has been long anticipated by citizens eager and anxious to get back to some semblance of normalcy, following the arrival of the COVID-19 virus to this country on March 12, 2020.

The minister has previously said the vaccine is necessary to preserve lives and also increase the population’s immunity to the disease.

During an interview with Guardian Media Limited last evening, Deyalsingh said officials had been, “planning for months and this weekend has been non-stop work and we are ready, willing and able to start what is the most important and most significant public health measure in the history of T&T.”

Asked what teething issues may arise as the vaccine roll-out programme is executed today, Deyalsingh begged for patience and understanding from both the population and the media in the next few weeks. He said despite various simulations, “it is only when you go live that some things will occur.”

“There are going to be issues although it doesn’t mean we didn’t plan. But only when you roll out…in reality, some issues are going to show up,” Deyalsingh said.

Assuring the country that contingency measures are already in place, Deyalsingh said they too will be navigating the situation as it comes and addressing any “unforeseen circumstances.”

For those who are over 60 years but not registered with a public health clinic and are wondering if they can access the vaccine, Deyalsingh said, “We are catering for two groups. Those in the public health system…on their clinic days they do not have to make an appointment and on non-clinic days, if you are over 60 with diabetes, hypertension, et cetera … you can phone in, go in and make an appointment so it is open to both health care workers and persons over 60 if you are in the public health system or if you are not.”