Enlist the Private Sector To Get Herd Immunity

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By Kevin Ramnarine

CATHERINE the Great ruled Russia as Tsarina from 1762 to 1796. At the time of her rule smallpox was ravaging Europe.

Catherine was greatly influenced by French enlightenment thinkers and was a believer in science.

Hearing of a possible cure in England she sent for the physician Thomas Dimsdale who administered the vaccine to the Empress and her son first before proceeding to vaccinate others.


This little historical flashback is important because as Trinidad and Tobago faces the daunting peril that is Covid-19 and its related death toll, it is without doubt that the only way out is vaccination with the aim of herd immunity.

All other national priorities fall a distant second to this objective. Turn the Covid Rubik’s Cube anyway you want and the solution is vaccination to effect herd immunity.

To this end, our CARICOM sister countries were faster out of the blocks than T&T.  According to www.ourworldindata.org, Antigua Barbuda has vaccinated 32% of its population, Dominica 27% and Barbados 26% and Guyana is at 19%.

T&T is at the bottom of the CARICOM vaccination table at 4.3%. To get to herd immunity in the six to seven months predicted by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh will require a serious effort by the Government, a rethinking of the vaccine procurement strategy and its overall approach to this problem.

The Government cannot do it alone. The truth is we are way behind where we ought to have been and money should never be an excuse. T&T is not a poor country. Far from being poor, we have way more financial capability than any other CARICOM country.

We have an Heritage and Stabalisation Fund (HSF) with close to US $6 billion in cash and more foreign reserves than any country in the CARICOM (although it has been in decline since 2014).


T&T is also home to the largest bank in the CARICOM (Republic Bank) and the two largest conglomerates in the Caricom (Ansa McAl and Massy).

Why has the Government not tapped into the resource base of the private sector?

Why not use the local pharmacy chains like Bhaggans, Ali’s Pharmacy, Superpharm and Starlite drugs to vaccinate people as is being done in Walgreens (USA) and Boots (UK)?

Why not permit citizens to leave the country to get vaccinated?

Why not allow fully vaccinated persons to enter the country on the condition of a negative PCR test and home quarantine?

We need what is called in basketball a “full court press” approach to fighting Covid-19. It is only when we begin to walk this road that the country’s economy will return to some degree of normalcy and we return our children to schools and get back to life as it was in 2019.

The curfew and the SOE will achieve little. Before that was implemented, the roads were already almost empty at night and most people have been indoors at night since street food was shut down two weeks ago.

Our leaders also need to aggressively promote vaccination. There is too much vaccine skepticism in T&T that is fueled by social media and half-baked ideas.

The sooner the Government engages the private sector as a partner the faster we all arrive at herd immunity.

Related story:

9pm to 5am Curfew in T&T…


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