Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

In issuing a stirring plea for citizens to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and its variants, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh noted that to date just around 39.9 per cent of the vaccinable population has taken their first dose with an even lower percentage having received their second dose.

Deyalsingh, who spent some time crunching the numbers at Monday’s virtual Covid-19 press conference said the number of persons receiving their first dose is 558,811, which is basically 39.9 per cent of the population of 1.4 million while the total number of persons getting their second dose is 464,129, which is basically 33.2 per cent of the population of 1.4 million.

He also noted that it was heart-breaking to hear Dr Jeanine St Bernard and Dr Joanne Paul use the word ‘beg’ at Saturday’s press conference in their bid to urge people to get vaccinated.

“The number of persons who are eligible to get vaccinated in Trinidad and Tobago are currently those 12 years and over. The 12 to 18 school population is about 90,000. Then you have those 12 to 18 who are not in school for whatever reasons, so you have to add maybe another 10,000 to that. The number of adults 18 and over who can be vaccinated is about one million. Therefore, the eligible population for being vaccinated is about 1.1 million.”

He said keeping in mind that of that 1.1 million just about 558,000 have gotten their first dose, the current number of persons between 12 and 18 who have received their first dose is 37,998 or roughly 38,000.

“Minus that from 558,000 and you have an adult population of one million and only about 510,000 to 520,000 of those adults over 18 who are vaccinated. It means that those 18 and over who have not been vaccinated are who are making up the bulk of our ICU (Intensive Care Unit) patients, the bulk of the adults in home quarantine, the bulk of fatalities. If you do not make the decision now to be vaccinated in the context of two known cases of Delta variant among citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and one with a Venezuelan migrant, as we have been saying all along and the international media has been carrying it, the Delta variant is more transmissible which means it moves from person to person and within communities faster, the outcomes are much more grave.

“I want to lend my voice and the voice of the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and every healthcare professional who have been coming to these press conferences and even outside of press conferences. The Children’s Authority had a webinar a few weeks ago and Dr Joanne Paul was there. Every NGO in this country has been talking about vaccination. The RHAs (Regional Health Authorities) are going out in the communities and talking to people one by one. Some religious leaders, His Grace the Archbishop, the Anglican Church, the Muslim Community, have all come out in support of vaccinations.”

Stating that it is not too late today for persons to make that decision to get vaccinated, Deyalsingh said: “We have our sites open, one hundred and nine health centres where you have a choice between the Sinopharm vaccine and the one shot and done (Johnson & Johnson). We have our mass vaccination sites. We have several private hospitals, we have tens and tens of private physician. We are doing pop-ups in malls, car parks, supermarkets. Make that decision now to get vaccinated. Let’s talk to the school age population which is the 90,000. To date, 37,998 are vaccinated, that is less than 50 per cent of our school age population and many children want to be vaccinated but unfortunately their parents see it differently. So, in that entire 12 and over category, we’re largely unvaccinated and we’ve been saying this for about a month and a half, we’re about five to ten percentage points off pace. By now, we should have been close to up to 600,000 having their first shot and a similar percentage having their second shot. So we are not in a very good position.”

The Health Minister noted that with the Delta variant is wreaking havoc across the world on lives, economies and hospital systems, he’s hoping that the population is not becoming numb to the daily announcements of four, five or six deaths.

“Because the numbers are relatively small as opposed to 20, 15 in those very bad days, it is still five or six or seven families that are hurting. And because it is not close to you does not mean that you don’t need to take care of yourself. As the old saying goes, ‘when your neighbour’s house is on fire make sure and wet yours’.

“So, we are on fire. Five, six, seven, eight or nine people per day are dying. Our rolling seven-day average is currently 199. I remember talking at these press conferences back in March and it was three. Then it went to six, then it went to 16 and we started to bring this to the attention of viewers. Then it went up to over 400 and now people are getting comfortable hearing 199, because 199 compared to 400, people may say we’re doing well. But 199 compared to three where we were in March, look at that factor of increase.”

He said in the face of local and international experts providing the data, we have reached a place where the rate of vaccination, not only in Trinidad but in many, many countries, has slowed.

“Last week between first doses of Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, and then we added the Johnson & Johnson to it because it’s a one shot and done, we were averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 a day. We should have been averaging about 4,000 to 5,000 a day. And it keeps dropping week by week. The week before we were up to about 4,000, and the week before that five, six thousands.

Drawing reference to Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley calling for about 50,000 more citizens to get vaccinated, Deyalsingh said if all of us want this Caribbean space to be one that we could call home and have these cycles of lockdowns and freeing up eliminated, the answer is now, and he's urging the public is to make that decision.

"It is not too late but time is running out for you to make that decision."

He stated that of the 50,000 Pfizer vaccine that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated would be made available to adults, thus far 23,315 adults of the 25,000 have accessed the Pfizer vaccine.

He also noted that the rate of acceptance among those adults was much higher than the rate of acceptance among children.

Deyalsingh said the PM has agreed to have another 50,000 doses of Pfizer put into the system for adults because as the window of opportunity closes due to expiry dates, they don’t want these vaccines to waste.

“We would still ring-fence those doses for children but I’m urging parents, I’m asking parents in a very, very sincere way, don’t let your children be sitting ducks for the Delta variant.

In closing, he again urged those who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated and added that now that we have those cases of Delta variant with no known recent travel history, the time is now.

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