Diplomatic groundwork coupled with vaccine hesitancy has led to Trinidad and Tobago being gifted 16,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from St Vincent and the Grenadines and another 8,000 from Bermuda.
These vaccine gifts are expected to be added to the Government’s nationwide vaccine rollout.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Amery Browne attended yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s and said that the vaccines from the SVG landed in the country yesterday.
The vaccines are set to expire at the end of June and Browne said that the Ministry of Health has indicated that it would be enough time to get the jabs distributed.
“This was the result of significant diplomatic work and communication at the highest levels,” Browne said.
Another trigger behind the significant gift may be vaccine hesitancy.
According to regional reports, nationals of St Vincent and the Grenadines are refusing to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine and the refusal was enough to force the SVG Government to order the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine.
Guardian Media understands that the push for the Sputnik came after SVG’s own Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonzales was inoculated with the Russian vaccination.
Sputnik does not have World Health Organisation (WHO) approval.
“There is some significant vaccine hesitancy particularly in some of the smaller islands in the region and the is a sense of responsibility that while they work on confronting vaccine hesitancy, no island wants to end up with vaccines that would have to be discarded,” Browne said.
“Therefore some of these elements came together, all anchored by the strong and consistent advocacy on the international level by our prime minister,” he said.
“We certainly are not depriving anyone of vaccines, the offer was made by St Vincent and the Grenadines and graciously accepted by the Government of T&T,” Browne said.
Browne also confirmed that representatives from the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Washington met with the US co-ordinator for COVID, Gayle Smith on Wednesday to discuss the share of a promised 80 million doses of vaccines from the United States.
“The Ambassador of T&T, Anthony Phillip Spencer did meet yesterday afternoon,” he said.
“What I am able to tell you at this point is that the discussions were very positive and again they were conducted in furtherance of significant advocacy that is ongoing and involves multiple levels of engagement,” he said.
“We are looking not just to receive the details of the vaccine initiative but through the levels that I have described, make recommendations and to lean forward into the planning to help shape what we are likely to receive,” he said.
Browne said he expected “great news” in the coming weeks.
The vaccination drive by the Ministry of Health resumes today with the Sinopharm vaccine, gifted to this country by the People’s Republic of China, being used to inoculate some 50,000 citizens.