Dr Roodal Moonilal

Dr Roodal Moonilal

Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has challenged Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to take the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to show his confidence in the jab.

Moonilal made the call on the heels of criticisms after he warned people to be cautious about being used as “guinea pigs” for the Chinese vaccine, which only has emergency-use approval.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has knocked Moonilal, stating that the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine is safe and has undergone a rigorous assessment by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

However, in a news release yesterday, Moonilal defended his comments, stating that all who attacked him should take the Chinese vaccine.

“Today, with a daily tally running like a Test match score, the Government doesn’t want any citizen to raise the burning questions. Yet no one in authority will take the Sinopharm vaccine. I ask why? Keith Rowley must take this vaccine in a full media and public event and show confidence by the highest level of leadership. Pull aside again Minister Deyalsingh,” he stated.

Moonilal said his comments were based on articles from CNN, BBC, the Washington Post, Reuters and many other leading news organisations.

“I raised one fundamental issue. It was not the emergency approval of the Sinopharm vaccine, since all vaccines by definition got emergency approval to respond to a pandemic. I raised the same questions raised by French President (Emmanuel) Macron, separate teams of WHO experts and indeed the medical leadership of China itself. I noticed Deyalsingh did not attack the international press,” stated Moonilal.

“There is global disquiet, to say the least, about the lack of transparency over the clinical trial data emanating from China in relation to this vaccine. This does not mean the vaccine is bad,” he added as he urged that people read the international reports.

Incompetent

border management

Stressing he has a responsibility to raise issues, Moonilal said: “I received the wrath of an editorial and the Minister. Should I promise never to raise a matter of vaccines again, or support this Government with anything they find to inject?”

He pointed out that the United National Congress (UNC) was the first to raise the Covid-19 crisis as an “urgent matter of public importance” and also, on December 9, 2020, was the first to raise the issue of vaccines.

He added that the country was told that the Government entered into a non-disclosure agreement to purchase vaccines from China that were not close to being WHO approved yet.

Rowley promised 461,000 vaccines on December 9, 2020 in the Parliament, he stated.

According to Moonilal, the UNC was the first organisation in this country to provide free masks to citizens and it was Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who first wrote to a foreign head of government (India Prime Minister Narendra Modi) to request a donation of vaccines, which was duly received weeks after.

He also criticised the Government’s “incompetence” on border management, adding that this issue has contributed in significant measure to the spread of the virus and its mutating variants.

“This abject failure to secure our borders deserves an inquiry and court martial, Rowley and Stuart Young should walk the plank for this calamity,” he stated.

Moonilal said he supports an extensive vaccination programme and availed himself of the vaccine when that moment came.

“But we must be cautious as we go forward with the multiplicity of vaccines coming to our shores. Indeed, the vaccine vacuum is a home-made problem. We should now be lobbying aggressively with the United States to receive some of their excess supply,” he said.

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Fourteen more people have died from Covid-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Among them is an 84-year-old man from Tobago, according to yesterday’s clinical update from the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development of the Tobago House of Assembly.

Moved by the sight of senior citizens waiting in long lines outside vaccination centres across the country, businessman Shane Mahabirsingh yesterday took it upon himself to provide comfort for them.

Mahabirsingh, owner of Bilda Boyz Construction in Gasparillo, visited three health centres in the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) distributing chairs, water and sanitising the elderly men and women standing in line.

Vaccines from multiple sources are coming into Trinidad and Tobago, among them 200,000 doses of Sinopharm arriving “very early next week”.

And there is an aircraft in the Caricom region collecting an unused supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca, which has been gifted to T&T.

Finally, the Prime Minister is seeking to advance the date of the arrival of 800,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines purchased through the African Medical Platform.

Elderly people faced vaccine rejection again at health centres around the country yesterday.

On the third day of the Covid-19 vaccination walk-in drive, which only facilitated people 60 years and over with surnames from F to J yesterday, many were left disappointed and frustrated. At the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre, the Arima District Health Facility and the Arouca Health Centre, only the first 50 people were vaccinated though several hundred showed up.

There are cases of financial abuse against the elderly in the form of fraudulent activities related to the encashment of their pension cheques, says Social Development Minister Donna Cox.

She said the Ministry is working with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to address matters of fraud, whereby older persons are being deprived of their benefits.