PM expresses concern with pastor’s vaccine comments

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says Trinidad and Tobago citizens are managing COVID-19 by choice.

Speaking at the post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday, the Prime Minister addressed vaccine hesitancy locally and expressed concern over the statements being made by a local pastor who used the word “genocide” to criticise the Government for not sanctioning the use of a controversial drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

“Those who are taking the choice of being unvaccinated, that is the pathway that you are choosing. So you are making that choice,” Rowley said.

“There is no dictator and no bullying. In Trinidad and Tobago, we are managing COVID by choice.”

However, he cautioned that those choices have consequences.

The Prime Minister warned that after months of negotiating for vaccines and being granted a tranche of vaccines from the United States, this country is now at risk of the US deprioritising our requests for more because this gift was not well received by the public.

This country received 305,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the US for public use. Of that, 66,411 were used for first doses, of which 28,270 should have received their second doses by yesterday.

Of concern to the Government is rising vaccine hesitancy.

At Wednesday’s Ministry of Health COVID-19 briefing Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said their statistics revealed a link between vaccine hesitancy and the Christian church.

Yesterday, Seventh-Day Adventist Pastor Clive Dottin said he found the statement shocking.

“We all know there is a linkage between race, religion, class and politics in this country,” Dottin said.

“COVID-19 has left us in an unpredictable situation.”

Dottin said the Government should not be singling out any group for sanction or discomfort.

Redemption Christian Centre’s Dr Victor Gill, who is also president of the local anti-COVID-19 vaccine group, dismissed Deyalsingh’s comments as “a desperate move by the minister to prevaricate and to be insincere as he has been.”

Gill added, “To say that the Christian churches are anti-vaxxers is totally wrong, and it is misinformation and disinformation at the same time.”

Gill also urged Government to endorse the use of Ivermectin, which is a medication that is typically used to treat parasite infestations.

To that request, the PM reminded that this country’s COVID-19 response is guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, noting it is only then the public is sure that it is being given advice with a strong medical and scientific base.

The WHO and all leading global health experts have said repeatedly that vaccination is the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to 4,739,396 deaths across the world.