Trinidad and Tobago receives the first COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility

Port of Spain, 30 March, 2021 (PAHO/WHO) - Today, Trinidad and Tobago received 33,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a global effort between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The arrival marks a historic step toward ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, in the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. This delivery is part of the first phase of deliveries for Trinidad and Tobago, and more vaccines are expected to arrive successively during the coming months. According to the first round of COVAX allocations, Trinidad and Tobago is expected to continue receiving doses through May until it reaches 100,800, the amount specified by COVAX.

PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which is responsible for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the countries of the Americas under the COVAX Mechanism, sent 33,600 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by SK Bioscience of South Korea). The vaccines arrived today at the Piarco International Airport.

“Seeing this arrival is very reassuring and it means that more people will be able to be protected from COVID-19," said Dr. Erica Wheeler, PAHO representative in Trinidad and Tobago. "We will continue to work with the country to support vaccination along with the entire package of known public health and social measures that we know can help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and save lives."

Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Trinidad and Tobago, the country has recorded 8,004 cases and 142 deaths as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

On this milestone in Trinidad and Tobago’s COVID-19 response, the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of  Health said: “On behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, I wish to express how happy we are that these WHO approved vaccines have landed on our soil. WHO approval assures us that the vaccines are safe and effective, and we will continue to prioritize safety over expediency. All systems are in place to continue the national COVID-19 Vaccination programme with those at highest risk and highest exposure to the virus. This is an important step for us as we move from the management to the control of COVID-19.”

UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area, Dr Aloys Kamuragiye said: “The arrival of these vaccines provides a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, which has been battering essential services that secure the education and protection of our children. UNICEF will continue to support the Ministry of Health in its communication campaign which seeks to drive adult vaccination as an important step towards controlling the pandemic, so that we can begin to reimagine a better, safer and healthier future for everyone, especially children, young people and their families.”

COVAX seeks to provide vaccines for at least 20% of the population of each participating country during 2021. In this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive doses to vaccinate between 2.2 and 2.6% of their population. The only exceptions are small island developing States, which will receive an allocation of vaccines to cover between 16 and 20% of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small quantities of vaccines.

Until vaccination is widespread among the population, basic public health measures remain the basis of the pandemic response. For public health authorities, this means continuing to conduct screening, contact tracing, isolation, assisted quarantine, and quality care. And for people, it means continuing to practice physical distancing, hand hygiene, the use of masks, adequate ventilation of indoor environments, and avoidance of crowded spaces.

COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. In the Americas, the PAHO Revolving Fund is the recognized procurement agent for the COVAX facility.

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