Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

(flashback)First shot: Nurse Helena Peters administers the first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh at the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre yesterday. He is the first Government minister to receive the vaccine.

—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

ANY speculation about Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley not wanting to get the Covid-19 vaccine is “ole talk”.

So said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday as he responded to scepticism from the public which has been circulating widely on social media.

Since news broke of Rowley’s Covid-19 diagnosis, many on social media have questioned the timing as the PM was set to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Tobago yesterday.

Some felt the PM somehow faked the diagnosis to avoid getting the vaccine.

Deyalsingh dismissed these claims before receiving his Covid-19 vaccine shot at the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre yesterday, saying, “That is absolute ole talk.”

“The Prime Minister is a very upright, straightforward person. And he has, as the press release said, contracted Covid-19. And when you contract Covid-19, if you have any flu-like symptoms, you cannot take any vaccine. If you have a stuffy nose or a fever, you can’t take any vaccine,” Deyalsingh said.

Deyalsingh said the PM has been isolated but he did not have any further information as to how many persons Rowley had been in contact with. He said this will be identified through contact tracing which has already begun. He added that the last time he was in physical contact with the PM was a week and a half ago.

Deyalsingh also rubbished claims that Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram had contracted the virus.

“That is absolutely false. I just spoke with the CMO half an hour ago,” he said.

Despite the social media “ole talk”, the public appears to be willing and ready to accept the vaccine, Deyalsingh said.

He noted then that the ministry had almost met its goal to administer 1,000 vaccines a day on the first day, and this figure was later surpassed.

The minister said as at 5 p.m. yesterday, 1,053 vaccines were administered across the five regional health authorities and Deyalsingh said some health centres would be administering vaccines until 6 p.m.

Deyalsingh also expressed confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine despite new reports that there is a link between that vaccine and rare blood clots.

Reports yesterday quoted the European Medicines Agency (EMA) head of vaccines Marco Cavaleri as saying there is a clear correlation between the vaccine and some recipients developing blood clots.

“We are trying to get a precise picture of what is happening, to define in detail this syndrome due to the vaccine,” Cavaleri said, adding: “Among the vaccinated, there are more cases of cerebral thrombosis among young people than we would expect.”

The United Kingdom’s health regulating agency has also said it is considering a proposal to restrict the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, over concerns about the rare blood clots.

Questioned on this issue yesterday, Deyalsingh said the roll-out will continue and he has no fear.

He noted that the World Health Organisation’s position is that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

The Health Minister rolled up his sleeve and took the shot around 3 p.m., following which he said he felt “strong”. He was kept for observation for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

As of 2 p.m. yesterday 234 vaccines were administered at the North Central Regional Health Authority, 63 at the North West RHA, 274 at the South West RHA, 72 at the Eastern RHA and 84 at the Tobago RHA.

Health workers and elderly persons with non-communicable diseases were targeted in the first phase of vaccination.

Deyalsingh said the figures signal that vaccine acceptance in T&T is high.

“That is good. That is very, very good. It means we have an intelligent population. We have a population that believes in science. And we have a population that trusts the vaccine,” he stated.

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