On March 5th, 2022, Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh said the Health Ministry would conduct a SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence study. Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual media conference on Saturday, he explained, “it will help us determine what our estimates are of where we feel our natural immunity is in the population.”

Minister Deyalsingh said then the study would be led by the Ministry of Health but supported by The University of the West Indies and the Pan American Health Organization. Immunologist Dr. Carla-Maria Alexander and Professor Christine Carrington will serve as technical leads on the project.

But what is seroprevalence? Dr. Carla-Maria Alexander explained, at Wednesday’s Ministry of Health media conference, “it is the percentage of individuals in a population who have antibodies to an infectious agent.” In the case of T&T’s upcoming study, the infectious agent is the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

In laying out the plan for the study, Dr. Alexander explained after time has passed from a SARS-CoV-2 infection or after being vaccinated, a person will produce antibodies to fight any further infection. She said they would be retrieving blood samples from participants and testing for the presence of antibodies.

The study intends to use a sample population, which means a smaller number of people representing the larger population. Samples will be collected from volunteers wanting to participate in the study.

She also added, “The benefits of the seroprevalence study would be to fill in the knowledge gaps that we have regarding how many persons in the country have immunity to SARS-CoV-2. It will give us a better understanding of the protection of the population as we move towards the endemic portion of this virus.”

According to the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parasram, they are still in the planning phase for the study. “The study outline needs to be developed further, and we are having a meeting with UWI and other stakeholders this (Wednesday) afternoon to clear the final bits of detail. After which it will have to go to both the Ministry and UWI for ethical approval to have the samples taken from the population in general.”

T&T’s Vaccination Update

According to the Health Minister on Wednesday, Trinidad and Tobago’s vaccination numbers “haven’t changed significantly.” As of Tuesday, March 8th, 2022, there are 704,855 people fully vaccinated in the country, accounting for 50.3 percent of the population. Based on the Ministry of Health data, approximately 1,000 shots per day are being administered across all the different levels of COVID-19 vaccinations. Deyalsingh added, “the more people we get vaccinated, the lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

Speaking on the decline of other childhood vaccines inclusive of MMR, Deyalsingh said, “we’ve identified across all counties in Trinidad and Tobago, we needed a total of 4,400 children to come in to be vaccinated in their first or second year of life.” He said out of that 4,400, the Ministry of Health has reached and vaccinated 3,900 or roughly 88 percent. The Health Minister explained, “we have potentially escaped an outbreak of measles which don’t want in any population.” Deyalsingh thanked both the nurses and parents who responded to the call but cautioned there were 385 defaulters that the Health Ministry would follow up.

Citing the Prime Minister’s announcement last week, the Health Minister said they would be paying close attention to the requirement that entry into a primary school is prefaced on showing evidence of vaccination against childhood disease. Will the COVID-19 vaccine fall into this vaccination requirement? Deyalsingh said the Attorney General is looking at this issue. He added that presently, the Government has no firm position on the issue.

Reporter: Kalain Hosein