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Supermarket Association President Rajiv Diptee.

COVID-19 crises in India and Brazil have now diverted any excess vaccines that the local private sector was hoping to purchase.

Head of the Supermarkets Association of T&T (SATT), Rajiv Diptee is now recommending that the Government utilise the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) to pay for the vaccines.

In March, the private sector, represented by ANSA McAL and SATT met with the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to discuss importing vaccines privately.

“We believe this country has the resources by way of our HSF to compete actively for the acquisition of a minimum of one million doses in the stride towards herd immunity,” Diptee said.

In response to questions on the issue yesterday, Diptee said that the latest correspondence from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health required that the private sector needed to “describe who is our WHO (World Health Organisation)-approved supplier of the vaccine, the agent responsible for the acquisition and the administration of vaccines,” he said.

Diptee said these details are required despite the “very detailed deployment plan already laid out for on the ground logistics in terms of receiving, distributing and administering vaccines all relevant protocols observed”.

Diptee said that accessing the vaccines privately is now “difficult, not impossible”.

“It is very difficult to find an available supply,” he said.

He said that the private sector also noted the Prime Minister’s ‘appetite’ for collaborative private sector involvement “as this is an indication to us there can be a strategy for a parallel vaccination programme”.

“As reported today (yesterday), we note El Salvador, a tiny Central American nation, has purchased 4.4 million doses from Pfizer by agreeing to transact that sale,” he said, adding that the HSF could be utilised by the State to make the purchase.

Diptee said that as the country faces another lockdown, “it must be noted that consumer confidence has hit an all-time low”.

“The social commentary of vax-nomics, with stop-start closures of businesses, has become a rambling cliche as grassroots folk ponder their next payslip,” he said.

“The prognosis of uncertainty is reflected in the perpetual interchanges of regulations ad nauseam. Vaccine success is no indicator of economic success; however, the marriage of both are deeply intertwined to give any prescription of hope to our nation,” Diptee said.

Guardian Media contacted ANSA McAL group Communications Manager Sharon Balroop yesterday for an update and was told that there was “nothing to report on it or any updates at this time”.

Balroop said that if the situation changes or if the company had a statement, they would update the public through the media.