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Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh makes his way to Parliament last Friday.

Rishard Khan

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Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh has acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Supermarket Association (SATT) requesting permission for the group to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for its members from an authorised dealer. He has also given the group until month’s end to submit a detailed COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan.

In the letter to SATT president Rajiv Diptee yesterday, Deyalsingh reminded the association that any World Health Organisation-approved vaccine may be imported through an authorised local dealer “provided that the vaccine has been approved through the national regulatory process pursuant to the Food and Drugs Act, Chapter 30:01.”

The minister asked that the association provide the name of its authorised local distributor and also reminded the association that vaccine manufacturers would require them to enter into a liability and indemnity agreement as a condition of purchase. He also noted the criteria for the storage of doses and that the relevant consumables would be required.

“Based on the above, you are asked to submit a detailed COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan, which also includes the lead members of the clinical team/s from the private hospitals and entities identified in your letter, by Wednesday 31st March 2021,” the letter ended.

In a release yesterday, SATT said the majority of the staff were “deemed essential staff and have been on the frontlines serving customers” since the COVID began in March 2020.

In the release, Diptee said: “Employees of SATT members have been on the front lines for the past year, therefore, SATT is currently exploring avenues to have them vaccinated against the virus in the shortest possible timeframe and we will be working with the Ministry of Health to make this a reality.”

Contacted on the matter yesterday, Diptee indicated that their members needed to be inoculated as soon as possible because they have a crucial role to play.

A few weeks ago, one of the region’s largest conglomerates, ANSA McAL, announced it would procure and administer jabs to all 6,000 of its employees and their immediate families who are willing to receive it. The conglomerate also called on the private sector to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Unit technical director Dr Avery Hinds yesterday confirmed on that vaccine procurement was a topic of discussion between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and China President Xi Jinping at a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

“Not being privy to the actual discussions that would have taken place, all we can say at this point in time is that we are aware there were discussions that would have touched upon both COVID management and upon vaccine delivery and acquisition and that as any additional information on firm agreement arises, that information will be brought to the public from the appropriate quarters,” he said.

Following the meeting on Tuesday, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dr Amery Browne described it as very productive.