The announcement by the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) that it is allowing anyone over the age of 18 to take the COVID-19 vaccine raises more questions than answers, and issues of vaccine inequality.
Only yesterday, this newspaper carried a story of Assemblyman Kelvon Morris announcing on social media that he was due to take the vaccine and that several other young people from the communications unit of the Division of Health Wellness and Family Services had already gotten vaccinated before seniors and frontline workers on the island.
This is of course in contrast to the stated policy of the Ministry of Health, which said in this first phase only medical personnel, frontline workers and the elderly qualified for the jab due to the short supply of vaccines.
Yesterday’s editorial also questioned why Tobago, with less than five per cent of the population, was given 10 per cent of the country’s vaccines.
Now we learn that the TRHA is concerned it may not be able to use all the allocated vaccines in time because it is worried the supply is too much for the short window before expiry.
According to the TRHA, there are 3,000 doses to be administered in this round and approximately 2,200 people have since applied. Seniors and frontline staff who wish to obtain vaccines will get inoculated once they are willing.
The TRHA noted that this is a voluntary exercise and although there is a priority listing, not all who are considered priority will come forward because of fears and suspicion.
However, the question has to be asked on what basis was the determination made about the number of vaccines to be sent to Tobago and every region? Was this well thought out? Are we losing the war in terms of vaccine acceptance? Is the rollout distribution in trouble?
Yesterday’s editorial made it clear it is the THA’s right to determine its policy in terms of the rollout of the vaccine, but something has to be very wrong when members of the Cabinet and Members of Parliament are unable to get the jab, while we are running the risk that some will be left unused in Tobago.
What should seniors in Trinidad think when they see young, healthy teenagers and adults getting the vaccine before them in Tobago while they are unable to hug their grandchildren for fear of death due to COVID-19?
Already, we are hearing stories that it is easier to get the jab in the Eastern Regional Health Authority than the North West.
Now that Tobago has changed its policy, the Minister of Health must tell us why 10 per cent of the vaccines were sent to Tobago? He must tell us whether Trinidad is also likely to change the rollout plan and importantly, he must also tell us what is the Government’s vaccine rollout plan and if that plan is going to be separated between the two islands.
The Minister of Health has some explaining to do.