HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has assured that his ministry was trying to buy paediatric vaccines for children aged 5-11, when challenged by Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran, at the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Friday. On Monday, the House debates the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2022) Bill 2022, which gives his ministry an extra $362 million.
Asked about a $12 million allocation to buy vaccines, the minister said no-one knew what the future holds.
Denying Deyalsingh’s charge that he was anti-vaccine, Seecheran related, “Personally I have two sons in this age group and I had to send them to Toronto to get vaccinated, because you could not provide vaccines.”
Deyalsingh told Seecheran to find out how many Caricom countries have these vaccines, before maligning TT.
He said a non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer made it hard for him to give any details, when asked when such paediatric vaccines would arrive in TT. “It is the only vaccine that is currently approved for the 5-11 age group.”
Seecheran asked about $12 million now allocated to buy adult and paediatric vaccines.
Deyalsingh said, “We are looking at the Moderna bivalent vaccine. It has not yet been approved. Once it has been approved we will look at the number of doses.
“Similarly we are looking at the Novovax Three vaccine because we are going to the year three of this pandemic.” He said the Government was simply being proactive in making the allocation to buy more vaccines, if these are approved.
Seecheran complained that in the short-term students will only have 20,00 doses of paediatric vaccine available, even as TT awaits 40,000 doses from Spain. “There is a huge amount of covid19 in schools. Children are acquiring covid19 in droves and are carrying it home to their homes. We had over 500 cases of covid19 today.”
Deyalsingh said, “If you look at the number of vaccines being distributed now…People talking about guinea pigs. Once UNC senator talking about he doesn’t want to be vaccinated because ‘This is not a communist state’. That is the type of narrative that is hampering the vaccination drive.”
Seecheran said, “Children in this age-group are not protected.”
Deyalsingh said, “We are going to have 40,000 doses.”
Earlier he hailed the Prime Minister for his “steely determination” in leading TT through the pandemic and also thanked every health worker and nurse for their work.
He listed four new health priorities going forward.
These were the reinvigoration of the HIV/Aids programme, getting a handle on non-communicable diseases, the decentralisation of mental health services and their incorporation into primary healthcare, and creating a voluntary and altruistic system of blood donations.
Deyalsingh said no salaries were outstanding, as all health staff were paid on time during the pandemic.
The $362 million sum was not to pay arrears, he assured.
The minister said TT was now moving from a parallel healthcare system to a system of hybrid hospitals. Arima will become first hybrid facility, and will begin to admit non-covid19 patients but also continue to treat covid19 patients including those now receiving dialysis.
Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe asked about the Couva Hospital. Deyalsingh said it would not become a hybrid hospital, but the plan was to return it to UWI once the number of covid19 cases allowed that.
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