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File picture: Prisoners get air time at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca

The Ministry of Health has announced that prisoners will be among the first set of people to be given the one-dose Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines that arrived in the country last week.

A statement from the ministry last night stated that the implementation of the ‘One Shot and Done’ initiative for the rollout of the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is part of the expansion of the National Vaccine Deployment Programme.

In addition to the vaccination of residents in coastal communities, the ministry said the initiative will now include the vaccination of prisoners and staff in the prison system.

“Prisoners and staff operate in confined spaces, which significantly increases their exposure to infectious diseases (e.g. Chicken Pox and Tuberculosis). To date, there have been over 320 COVID-19-positive cases from within the prison system. The ‘One Shot and Done’ initiative will reduce the reoccurrence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the prison system,” the ministry said.

It added that Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds visited the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca yesterday, where they spoke with both inmates and staff about the benefits of being vaccinated.

The second group of people to be vaccinated with the J&J vaccines will be healthcare workers.

The statement said: “The ministry continues to prioritise its healthcare workers who remain a high-risk high-exposure group for contracting the COVID-19 virus. To this end, healthcare workers are once again being prioritised to receive another World Health Organization (WHO)-approved COVID-19 vaccine, to protect their patients, their families and themselves.”

Thirdly, frontline workers will also receive the J&J doses, with the ministry saying special arrangements will be made to vaccinate people within that group.

“The ‘One Shot and Done’ initiative for the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine represents a further acceleration of the efforts of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to protect its citizens from the deadly effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” it said.