Port of Spain – Although Trinidad & Tobago has so far not recorded any cases of monkeypox, the government has ordered 2 000 doses of vaccine to fight the virus from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh disclosed.
Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s weekly COVID-19 news conference, he said there was no confirmation of either the cost or the date of arrival of the vaccines yet.
“We have placed a very early order,” he said. “T&T was one of the first countries to place the order with PAHO.
“We have placed an indicative order of 2 000 doses of monkeypox vaccines. It is a two-dose vaccine just like the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer or the Sinopharm (for COVID-19), so that means that could vaccinate potentially 1 000 people.”
The health minister said once the shipment arrives, the vaccination programme will initially focus on close contacts of people who test positive for the virus.
“So, if you have a positive person living in a household… one or two colleagues… let’s go up to a maximum of 10 close contacts for a positive case,” he said. “We are having the ability to vaccinate 1 000 people.
“We are catering for roughly 100 cases. At this point in time, with the trajectory of monkeypox, the chances of T&T registering 100 cases is relatively low.”
Deyalsingh, who said eight samples recently sent for testing locally had come back negative, added: “We continue to be prepared.
“What is missing now is the vaccines. Testing is up and running, and we have done everything else that we could do as we prepare more and more for the arrival of the monkeypox virus on our shores.”
Deyalsingh also reiterated his call for equity in access to vaccines, as he appealed to larger, wealthier countries to stop hoarding and to share with others.
“I want to add my voice again, as I have been, for small states like T&T to be able to access monkeypox vaccines,” he said.
“It is quite sad to see as a global community, we’re making the same mistake as we made for COVID, where the larger, wealthier countries have hundreds of thousands of vaccines and countries like ours have none.”
There have been more than 21 000 cases of monkeypox recorded in 78 countries, including in the Caribbean nations of The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, and Jamaica.