Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran. File photo/Ayanna Kinsale
CARONI East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran has criticised Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s announcement of another covid booster (vaccination) programme, saying it is reactive.
“Deyalsingh’s announcement that in a bid to safeguard the public, Government will be rolling out another covid19 vaccination programme from the first week of the new year is another example of his incompetence and ministerial negligence in managing this nation’s covid19 response,” Seecheran said.
Deyalsingh announced last week that the vaccination drive, which will begin on January 6, will target those who may not have finished their booster programmes, as well as those who have never been vaccinated.
While covid19 fatalities and hospitalisations have been in decline, six deaths were recorded during December 14-20 and Seecheran said the number is likely to increase between Christmas and Carnival.
Seecheran questioned whether the ministry will boost citizens with the Sinopharm vaccine or whether attempts will be made to acquire the newly reformulated mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh in his Christmas gear during a visit to the PoS General Hospital on Christmas Day. Photo by Jeff K Mayers
“During the Standing Finance Committee in October, I implored Minister Deyalsingh to acquire the newly reformulated covid vaccines, tailored specifically for the omicron variant of the virus.
“Had we acquired these WHO-approved vaccines, through purchase or donation, many of our elderly and immunocompromised citizens would have had access to the best option internationally to protect themselves from an evolving threat.”
Instead, Seecheran said, “We are now again facing a potential surge of the virus, with only the Sinopharm vaccine available. This vaccine, while effective against the original strain of the coronavirus from 2019, has a much-reduced efficacy against the highly-contagious omicron sub-variant XBB, which has surged to more than 50 per cent of covid cases in the northeastern US and has the potential to spread quickly, as millions of American citizens embark on holiday travel.
“Six citizens have died from covid virus over the past week, between December 14 and 20, and with viral levels expected to increase over the holiday period and into the Carnival season, we can expect an increase in the number of infections in Trinidad and Tobago.”
He pointed to studies coming out of Hong Kong which he said showed those who were vaccinated with “killed whole-virus vaccines such as the Sinopharm vaccine,” and not western mRNA vaccines, were at more risk of severe disease and death, if infected with the omicron sub-variant XBB.
“Minister Deyalsingh has also made no attempts to acquire the life-saving anti-viral drug Paxlovid.” He said this could save 85 per cent of unvaccinated patients, when given soon after initial diagnosis of covid.
“Our citizens deserve better than a reactive, incompetent, and negligent Minister of Health, who has again been found to be sleeping on the job.”