Ramped up vaccinations from Monday

Mean­while, Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh is as­sur­ing the pop­u­la­tion that there are enough vac­cines avail­able to those who are will­ing to take the jab

Joshua Seemu­n­gal

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley has re­peat­ed that the gov­ern­ment is not con­sid­er­ing en­forc­ing a manda­to­ry vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme at this time.

At yes­ter­day’s COVID-19 press con­fer­ence, he said vac­ci­na­tions re­main vol­un­tary but he ex­pects cit­i­zens will do the right and re­spon­si­ble thing by mak­ing use of the vac­cines avail­able to them.

He said he was grate­ful that the con­ver­sa­tion about manda­to­ry vac­cines is tak­ing place be­cause it is an ed­u­cat­ing con­ver­sa­tion.

“Even though, to­day, we are not hav­ing in front of us manda­to­ry vac­ci­na­tions as a dis­cus­sion or pol­i­cy at the lev­el of the Cab­i­net, out­side the Cab­i­net door is a fu­ture. There are virus­es and if the con­di­tion aris­es, God for­bid, that a gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing our gov­ern­ment, has to in­ter­vene to pro­tect the lives of its cit­i­zens, I sim­ply say, it will be the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of the gov­ern­ment to say if and how it hap­pens – whether it’s three-fifths in the Par­lia­ment or the whole Par­lia­ment,” Dr Row­ley said.

The Prime Min­is­ter said the gov­ern­ment trusts the pop­u­la­tion with its de­ci­sion mak­ing. He said if the pop­u­la­tion wants to see a re­turn to nor­mal­cy and wants to stop the ill­ness and death caused by the virus, then vac­ci­na­tion is es­sen­tial.

“I would ex­pect that the rea­son­able re­sponse of the peo­ple of Trinidad and To­ba­go is to find our­selves in the pop­u­la­tion of vac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple for whom the rav­ages of the virus would be con­sid­er­ably re­duced and work to­wards some sort of elim­i­na­tion,” he said.

He called on peo­ple to re­ly on ver­i­fied in­for­ma­tion from med­ical pro­fes­sion­als to make their de­ci­sion whether to get vac­ci­nat­ed or not.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that some peo­ple can­not get vac­ci­nat­ed, at this time, for le­git­i­mate rea­sons, he urged peo­ple re­fus­ing to get vac­ci­nat­ed be­cause of mis­in­for­ma­tion to come to their sens­es for their sake, their loved ones’ sake and for the coun­try at large.

“To­day, we mourn the loss of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 1,000 peo­ple. 1,000 peo­ple lost in a pop­u­la­tion of 1.4 mil­lion … 1,000 fam­i­lies and more, many more fam­i­lies felt the pain of that loss and what we can com­fort our­selves in is that it could eas­i­ly be a whole lot worse,” he said.

To avoid a worse out­come, peo­ple must make the right de­ci­sion to vac­ci­nate.

Asked at the press con­fer­ence whether all Cab­i­net mem­bers have been vac­ci­nat­ed, Dr Row­ley said he wasn’t sure, but he hoped so.

“I don’t know. I do not mon­i­tor mem­bers of the cab­i­net but I hope giv­en what we’ve been ask­ing the pop­u­la­tion to do, that there would not be any mem­ber of Cab­i­net ask­ing to do oth­er­wise. I have not polled mem­bers of the Cab­i­net,” he said.

Mean­while, Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh is as­sur­ing the pop­u­la­tion that there are enough vac­cines avail­able to those who are will­ing to take the jab.

At present, there are 157,053 ful­ly-vac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple in the coun­try but, ac­cord­ing to Min­is­ter Deyals­ingh, that fig­ure will like­ly in­crease sig­nif­i­cant­ly in the com­ing weeks, as the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues with its ramped-up vac­ci­na­tion dri­ve.

Ac­cord­ing to Deyals­ingh, from Mon­day, two more mass vac­ci­na­tion sites, in part­ner­ship with the pri­vate sec­tor, will be op­er­a­tional­ized at the Cou­va/Pt Lisas Cham­ber of Com­merce Build­ing and the Pe­nal Pow­er­gen Sta­tion.

He added that a third, at the Na­tion­al Acad­e­my for the Per­form­ing Arts, in Port-of-Spain, will like­ly come on stream this week as well.

More than 100 com­mu­ni­ty doc­tors, as well as sev­er­al pri­vate hos­pi­tals, have al­so been giv­en a sup­ply of vac­cines to ad­min­is­ter free of charge.

“Be­tween the six Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty mass vac­ci­na­tion sites, the 109 health cen­tres un­der the Min­istry of Health, the six mass vac­ci­na­tion sites be­ing run by the pri­vate sec­tor, the pri­vate hos­pi­tals, any­body in­ter­est­ed in be­ing vac­ci­nat­ed should have rea­son­able ac­cess to the vac­cine,” he said.

“There’s no more re­stric­tion, as long as you’re 18-year-old and not preg­nant, or if your doc­tor ad­vis­es you against the vac­cine.”

While a reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem, and not a walk-in sys­tem, re­mains in place, Min­is­ter Deyals­ingh said the 109 re­gion­al health au­thor­i­ties have be­gun con­tact­ing peo­ple in their com­mu­ni­ties, en­cour­ag­ing them to reg­is­ter for their shots.

He said dur­ing the com­ing week, the min­istry will be launch­ing new com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and reach and ac­count­abil­i­ty ini­tia­tives to vac­ci­nate as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

At a pre­vi­ous press con­fer­ence, on June 3, the Health Min­is­ter re­vealed that 8,861 health­care work­ers out of a to­tal of 16,600 work­ers were vac­ci­nat­ed.

Asked if the fig­ure had in­creased, the min­is­ter said more health­care work­ers were go­ing for their vac­cines, but he didn’t have an up­dat­ed fig­ure avail­able.

“Since then, I’ve been work­ing close­ly with the pres­i­dent of the TTR­NA (T&T Reg­is­tered Nurs­es As­so­ci­a­tion) Idi Stu­art, he and I have been work­ing very close­ly to bring out more and more nurs­es, not on­ly nurs­es. We have ex­pand­ed it to fam­i­lies, spous­es and they have been com­ing out more and more,” he said.

“The nurs­ing com­pli­ment – we re­al­ly want to get that up.”