The arrival of the largest batch of COVID-19 vaccines to date, 800,000 doses of Sinopharm from China paid for by the citizens of this country through the Government, marked a major milestone in Trinidad and Tobago’s battle against the virus.

The vaccines will be used to accelerate the Ministry of Health’s nationwide vaccination drive as it seeks to inoculate some 900,000 people to reach herd immunity.

The 800,000 jabs mean there are now vaccines in the country to administer the required two doses to 400,000 citizens in the coming months. This is a major step forward in the battle to save lives and livelihoods. It is also significant because just four months ago, there was dismay and confusion about whether this country stood a chance against COVID-19 because a consistent stream of vaccines seemed a world away.

The rollout of this latest batch begins on Friday. However, we hope the Government will also seek to mobilise private sector assistance to ensure jabs reach the widest cross-section of the society in the quickest, most efficient way possible, given the success of the sector in administering jabs over the past month.

As recent as last weekend, the T&T Manufacturers’ Association administered an astounding 5,160 second doses of vaccines to citizens without any hiccups, thanks to the input of stakeholders and scores of volunteers.

The private sector has found a formula that works and the Government, which experienced hiccups in its programme early on, should realise there is no need to reinvent the wheel or put additional pressure on the public health system by taking on the burden single-handedly if there are other resources available.

Many citizens had earlier this year taken to social media and other platforms to criticise the Government over the delay in the acquisition of the vaccine doses needed to properly inoculate the percentage of the population needed. Today, however, an adequate supply is no longer a hindrance to citizens and so, it will be hard to fathom why anyone would not give themselves a fighting chance by not going out to get vaccinated.

The health and welfare of every citizen must take priority over the naysayers who continue to spread misinformation and fake news trying to dissuade others from getting vaccinated.

Across the world, countries where vaccination drives were successful, have been able to safely reopen.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley publicly endorsed the vaccines by himself taking first dose of the Sinopharm jab and then urging citizens to do the same.

Vaccines are a strong layer of protection against the virus and can help stave off the disease so that citizens can return to lifestyles as close to what we once knew. The vaccines are safe, effective and can help save lives.

COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to those who are unvaccinated. Some 952 people have already died from the virus in this country and it has accounted for millions more across the globe.

As of yesterday, 226,939 people in T&T had received their first dose of vaccines and 142,875 were fully vaccinated. The benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the risks. The numbers speak for themselves.

Vaccinate. The life you save may well be your own.