Port of Spain – The Trinidad & Tobago government disclosed on Wednesday it had been forced to end the booster programme for people between the ages of 12 and 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 were received in February, he had urged the population to recognise the doses were going to expire on June 30.
He said while some people had taken advantage of the roll-out of the vaccines some did not.
“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,” Deyalsingh said.
“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 to 18 booster programme cannot continue at this time, but the 18 and over we do have J&J (Johnson & Johnson) and Sinopharm, which are perfectly safe to be boosted with.”
Deyalsingh told reporters that the ongoing booster programme for all ages needed a boost and cloe to 170 000 people have been boosted.
“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,” he said.
“You need to protect yourself by either starting the vaccination programme, 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 added that getting vaccinated or boosted will assist the health authorities in dealing 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.
“It’s a very simple message this morning, our booster programme needs a boost from … members of the public going out there to be boosted,” he said.
Deyalsingh reiterated that the country’s vaccination numbers continue to be very low with only 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,” he said. “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.”
The Health Minister said vulnerable groups such as the elderly, or those with non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancers, dialysis patients, obese people, asthmatics, pregnant women, and those with cardiac issues, needed to get vaccinated.
“If you have not been vaccinated, please commit to being vaccinated,” he said. “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.”
T&T removed last weekend 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 urged people to continue adopting the measures, including social distancing, and washing of hands, reminding them that the pandemic “is far from over”.