T&T ‘No mandatory vaccine programme, we are trying to save lives’

The Government’s vaccination policy for public sector employees, which comes into effect from January 15, 2022, is not a vaccine mandate.

This is according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

Speaking during a Ministry of Health COVID-19 briefing yesterday, Deyalsingh said vaccination is a life-saving mechanism.

He was asked by a reporter whether officers from private security firms would be required to be vaccinated to work in public sector buildings.

“The Government has launched no mandatory vaccine programme, there is no mandate to be vaccinated, persons make a choice, it applies to anyone on the public payroll, in the public service or a statutory agency- so at this point in time, it does not apply to private security workers,” Deyalsingh said.

He said the policy is an ‘expansion’ of voluntary vaccination and also applies to employees of state boards and state entities.

Deyalsingh said the population has become so immune to the high death count from the virus that something needed to be done.

“It is not to punish anyone, because we can’t go on reporting 30 deaths per day- 30 deaths a day no longer impacts on the population, what is the tolerance of the population before they act? Is it 50? One hundred? So 30 deaths a day don’t seem to move the population again. Reporting that the A&E’s cannot cope doesn’t seem to move the population to want to assist us,” Deyalsingh said.

He quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who when speaking about the Omicron variant stated “The steps countries take today and in the coming weeks will determine how Omicron unfolds. If countries wait until their hospitals start to fill up, it’s too late. Don’t wait. Act now.”

Deyalsingh said Trinidad and Tobago must heed Ghebreyesus’ advice.

“That is what we are trying to prevent, we are trying to save lives, this is a life-saving measure,” Deyalsingh said of the vaccine policy.

As he urged citizens to get vaccinated or get their booster shots against COVID-19, Deyalsingh added, “If we do that, we can avoid the potential catastrophe that awaits that is already hitting many parts of Europe and many parts of the United States, where their regular hospital systems are already challenged.”

However, the Health Minister said there would be no additional lockdown measures, such as those implemented in countries across the world, ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Deyalsingh said the business community and T&T’s economy cannot survive any additional lockdowns.

Meanwhile, the Ministry’s technical director of Epidemiology, Dr Avery Hinds said the ministry has not detected Omicron at community spread yet.

There have been five detected cases of Omicron in the country, with the latest being a woman who had no recent travel history or known contact with a COVID-19 positive person.

“Now that would suggest that they are not sure where they picked up this particular infection and there may be other individuals but at this point we cannot yet confidently state that there is established community transmission but we would be continuing to look out,” Hinds said.

He said the ministry will be vigilant as the Omicron variant has the potential to spread very quickly. Dr Hinds said the Health Ministry is hoping to avoid that potential for spread with the Public Health measures, currently in place.

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