Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday implored the population to get vaccinated, as he expressed horror over three generations of a family being wiped out by Covid-19.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference in Tobago, Rowley further warned that it would be “foolish” to think the deadly Delta variant would not come to Trinidad and Tobago, as he emphasised vaccination is the best defence.
T&T recorded an additional 15 Covid-19 deaths and 258 new cases of Covid infection yesterday.
Rowley noted the Express exclusive report of three members of a Cunupia family dying from the Covid-19 virus—Surujdaye Heeraman, 74, her daughter Parbatee John, 53, and grand-daughter Sohanee, 40—all within 25 days. They were all unvaccinated.
“Today I saw with horror the front page of a newspaper where a family of three, three generations of people passed with Covid-19 in our country. This is the kind of thing that happened frequently in 1918 with the Spanish flu.
“We warned about it earlier, we talked about it, but it happening to us and seeing it is a different story. That is very distressing, and I extend my deepest sympathy to all the people around that family and that community because I have a clear understanding of how painful that is,” he added.
Rowley, a recovered Covid-19 victim, said he has experienced the loss of persons , including neighbours and friends.
“I’ve had members of my family in wards on Intensive Care, not knowing whether they will come out. Thankfully they have made it through,” he said.
The Prime Minister also warned that it is inevitable the highly infectious Delta variant will reach T&T shores.
“It would be unreasonable to expect that as the world is being ravaged by the Delta variant and we are part of the mixing world, that we would be able to sterilise ourselves,” he said.
“It is quite possible that that virus can end up among our population because the population of Trinidad and Tobago is mixing with the population of the United States in particular and other areas. We will be fooling ourselves to believe that we’ll go through the rest of the pandemic without any chance of the Delta virus getting among us,” he added.
Rowley said the best way to cater for this variant is to be vaccinated.
Conspiracies and misinformation
The Prime Minister said the unvaccinated population is at risk, as he urged people to not fall for the conspiracies and misinformation on Facebook but to follow the science. “The unvaccinated is the population that is most at risk, where the risk is one of serious hospitalisation and death,” he stressed.
Rowley pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago has accessed approximately 1.2 million doses of vaccines which can vaccinate 600,000 people, while the target is to vaccinate 900,000 people.
He said 477,000 doses have been used for both single and double dose so far.
“We need to step up and have more people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.
Rowley said the vaccine reduces the transmission of the virus amongst people, and it allows people who are infected to respond better. He said it does not prevent infection but it allows the infected to survive, as he noted vaccinated people are avoiding hospitalisation and death.
The Prime Minister said he respects the right of people who say leave them in control of their body, but added “there comes a point along the way where that right will intersect with other rights”.
He pointed out the vaccination programme for the nation’s children is mandatory by law, and citizens have been living with this for a long time, but now everyone has an opinion which they express on Facebook. He reiterated that there is no mandatory rule that one must take the Covid-19 vaccine, but at this point it is encouraged.
“If that does not work sufficiently and we are sufficiently endangered to a reaction that is hugely disadvantageous to the wider population... at that time any Government will have to act,” he said. He again stressed that it is a normal measure to get vaccinated, as he pointed out that the last time he was vaccinated it was not because he wanted to.
He said he recalled going to a country that required him to have hepatitis vaccination.
Rowley further noted one of the concerns people have is that the vaccine was developed too quickly. He said the advancement of technology has created Facebook which is now a platform for people to share their conspiracy theories and create fear.
He said in the southern United States they are saying that Facebook is drowning out the science, resulting in the population not vaccinating to protect their lives. Rowley said it’s the same “speedy technology” that allowed these vaccines to be developed quickly.
He said many of those laboratories that got approval for vaccines were working on the coronavirus for the longest while.
The Prime Minister said countries rely on the technical support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has given technical backing on the vaccines. He urged repeatedly for persons to get vaccinated, as he disclosed that when he got his jab of the Sinopharm vaccine he did not feel a thing.