Deyalsingh: Get young ones vaccinated before covid19 vaccines expire

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said covid19 vaccination numbers remain low. He reminded people that the Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and over would expire at the end of June, while the paediatric vaccines for five-11-year-olds would expire in October, with no guarantee that more could be acquired.

Up to Wednesday, he said, 693,026 people, or 49.5 per cent of the population, had received their first dose, while 712,904 were fully vaccinated. He said 160,599 boosters had been administered to date, and 1,194 paediatric vaccines had been administered since May 25.

“The Pfizer vaccines for those over 12 years of age will expire on June 30. We have stopped administering first doses of this vaccine. We are giving people their second shots and boosters, so please come in before June 30 if you want to get Pfizer, especially those 12-18, as we cannot boost them with Sinopharm or any other vaccine.”

Deyalsingh said parents and guardians of those in the five-11 age group should take advantage of the opportunity to start the vaccination process now, as those vaccines expire in October.

Vaccine production worldwide has slowed down, he warned.

“Because of plummeting demand globally, vaccine manufacturers are now cutting back or shutting down vaccine-manufacturing plants.

“Our and my fear is that because we are getting out of the acute phase of the pandemic, and becoming a little more relaxed, we may not be seeing a sense of urgency to get vaccinated. However, we don’t know what the future of covid19 holds for us in the context of new variants. It is my wish that people get vaccinated now, especially parents who have children five-11, and don’t wait for a new variant to rush to get vaccinated.”

Serum Institute of India is starting to reduce its vaccine output owing to low demand, Pharmacare in South Africa is shutting down its plant, and Pfizer Biovac is also shutting down its vaccine manufacturing capacity because of plummeting demand, he said.

He said TT still had adequate stocks of vaccines for adults: there were 251,541 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine available, expiring in June 2023, and 199,876 J&J vaccines, expiring in May and July 2023. There were 43,533 Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and up expiring at the end of June, and 42,053 paediatric Pfizer vaccines expiring in October.

Deyalsingh said the ministry will not be attempting to acquire the new Novavax vaccine if it is approved by the World Health Organization, as there are currently four vaccines available in Trinidad and Tobago and the uptake is very low.

“If yesterday we administered 425 vaccines of all types and for all ages, I don’t see the utility of bringing in a fifth vaccine.”

He said the demand for vaccines from sentinel private physicians had declined to zero.

Deyalsingh said there were 92 new cases of covid19 detected in 51 schools between May 30 to June 3, andthere has been a steady decline in the number of cases detected in schools for the last four weeks, from 306 to 233 to 172 to 92.

Asked about a shortage of cold and flu drugs in private pharmacies, Deyalsingh said the availability of drugs in the private sector is between the private sector and its suppliers, but if local distributors come to the Health Ministry, it will tryto assist by writing to the embassies and high commissions for the countries where the manufacturers were based, to try to alleviate the shortage.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said there has been a 37 per cent decline in cases between May and June thus far, with the positivity rate also falling into the 30s from being in the 40s for weeks. He said there had been a slow start to June in terms of the number of cases so far and the ministry hoped the trend would continue.The rolling average in the number of deaths had increased from three to four over the last two weeks.

CMO Dr Roshan Parasram reminded the population that the delta variant of covid19 was still present.

“We did genomic mapping of 118 random samples last week, and 117 were omicron, while the other was delta. This is concerning, as it means delta is still present. So people should continue to be careful, because while omicron might be less virulent and have milder symptoms, you cannot determine which strain you catch.”

Hinds said with the advent of the rainy season, the ministry was looking out for a rise in gastrointestinal illness as well as vector-borne diseases like dengue. He said the covid19 precautions of washing hands and wearing a mask meant outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness had been relatively low over the last two years, but people should still be cautious. They should also ensure they keep their surroundings clean of mosquito breeding sites.