PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago's government Wednesday said it had been forced to end the booster program for people between the ages of 12 to 18 because they had failed to make use of thousands of doses of a vaccine supplied by the United states that expired at the end of last month.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, speaking at the weekly news conference of the Ministry of Health, said when the 75,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been received in February “I urged the population, I begged, I implored, all of us went out of our way to tell people these doses are going to expire on June 30.
He said while some people had taken advantage of the rollout of the vaccines, “some didn’t. So it is difficult to go out and procure vaccines now in a stream that is no longer available to us because we did not demonstrate…and the appetite to show that we can use these vaccines.
“”We will continue to look and see if we could get (Pfizer) supplies, but I did urge, I did ask, I did advise the population that these are going to expire on June 30, so take advantage of it and our tag line was don’t delay, vaccinate today.
“People have chosen to delay so the 12-18 booster program cannot continue at this time but the 18 and over we do have J&J (Johnson and Johnson) and Sinopharm which are perfectly safe to be boosted with”.
Deyalsingh told reporters that the ongoing booster program for all ages “needs a boost” and that to date, 166,895 persons have been boosted.
“And at this point in time, I really want to make a plea to those who have been vaccinated, to get boosted, because the protection you get from vaccination or from any other source, is going to wane over time.
“You need to protect yourself by either starting the vaccination program, or if you have already been vaccinated, get boosted, it could really help save your life and keep our hospital numbers down where they have been,” he said, adding that getting vaccinated or boosted would assist the health authorities deal with other issues and not have to respond in the manner as they had been doing during the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“So, it’s a very simple message this morning, our booster program needs a boost from you the members of the public going out there to be boosted,” he said, reiterating that the country’s vaccination numbers continue to be very low with just 56 first doses administered on Tuesday, while the total doses, made up of first and second doses as well as boosters, were 121.
“We have now vaccinated completely 715,015 persons, so we’re still stuck at 51.1 per cent of the population. So, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get that immunity that you require. And if you’re vaccinated, your protection is going to wane over time,” Deyalsingh said.
The Health Minister said vulnerable groups such as the elderly, or those with non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancers, dialysis patients, obese persons, asthmatic persons, pregnant women, and those with cardiac issues, need to get vaccinated.
“If you have not been vaccinated, please commit to being vaccinated,” he said, adding “regardless of your immunocompromised state, but we’re urging those who are at higher risk to get boosted, but we also urge anyone over 18 who has been vaccinated, to get boosted.”
Trinidad and Tobago last weekend removed the compulsory wearing of masks that had been used as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus that has so far killed 4, 039 and infected 169, 201 others since the first case was detected in March 2020.
The health authorities have urged people to continue adopting the measures, including social distancing and washing of hands, reminding them that the pandemic “is far from over”.