Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has appeared on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, addressing controversial claims made by Trinidad-born American rapper Nicki Minaj about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Minaj caused a global uproar earlier this week when she tweeted about a friend of a cousin of hers in Trinidad, who she said had suffered impotence and swollen testicles after getting vaccinated.
Deylasingh, as well as health officials across the world, has responded, saying there is no evidence of testicular swelling being a side effect of the vaccine.
On Wednesday, Deyalsingh said the ministry had wasted time and effort trying to verify Minaj’s claims, adding there was no case of vaccine-related testicular swelling in T&T.
The Health Minister appeared on Noah’s show on Thursday night to further discuss the issue.
Noah noted that T&T had been thrust into the spotlight in “not the most favourable way” because of Minaj’s tweets while Deyalsingh sought to assure the public that the vaccines are safe and effective.
“To date, we have administered over one million doses of vaccines in a country of 1.4 million people. We are a small but proud country. And we are confident that we have brought WHO-approved vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago. And with those million doses we have administered to date, there have only been five cases of adverse events, all reported to WHO. None of them includes testicular swelling.
“When one weighs that against the ravages of Covid-19 around the world where close to 4.6 million people have died, the advantages of vaccinations far outweigh the miniscule risk,” he said.
Doubles and coconut
Noah questioned Deyalsingh about Minaj’s claims that vaccination was mandatory to work in T&T.
On Wednesday night, during an Instagram live, Minaj said she was told by her family members that they could not work without being vaccinated.
She said she had to be their voice as they did not have Instagram. Deyalsingh said this was not the case.
“I welcome the opportunity to put the record straight. In simple language, that is simply not true. Our vaccination programme is voluntary, but highly recommended,” he said. Several companies in T&T have however implemented policies stating workers must be vaccinated or produce a negative PCR test every two weeks.
Asked if he had any message for Minaj, Deyalsingh said his message to the entire T&T diaspora is that vaccines are safe and effective.
“My message to the Caribbean diaspora is to spread the word to get vaccinated to save your life so we can also get back to our Caribbean way of life, whether it’s soca, whether it’s reggae, whether it’s playing steelpan...all these lovely things. The way out of this pandemic right now is to simply get vaccinated,” he said.
Calling Noah an “honorary Trini”, Deyalsingh also extended an invitation to him to visit T&T again. Noah previously visited for Carnival in 2018.
“Trevor, if you want to come back here to play mas, get vaccinated and come back.... I will personally take you to eat doubles, I will personally take you for coconut, I will personally take you to Tobago,” said Deyalsingh.