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Sascha Wilson

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he expects opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine from some sections of the population, including the medical fraternity.

In his address at the first National Health and Research Conference to be hosted in T&T, the minister said: “We are going to have a challenge and some research has to be done on this and this has to be the anti-vaccine kickback that we are going to get when a COVID vaccine is launched, that we will have to find out what leads the population and some in the medical fraternity and we cannot exclude the medical fraternity from this because there are some doctors locally and internationally who buy into the conspiracy theory of vaccines.”

There have been promising preliminary results from COVID-19 vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna and on Wednesday Deyalsingh confirmed that the Ministry of Health has started preparations for the delivery of one of them.

Deyalsingh also revealed that there have been 2128 deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the first nine months of this year. He said the Health Ministry’s strategic objective is to reduce the three highs to the three lows as NCDs are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in T&T, accounting for more than 50 per cent annually.

“With the advent of NCDs the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is increasingly challenged to maintain the health of their people in an equitable and cost-effective way. There continues to, therefore, be the need for research on the effectiveness, outcomes, access and cost of the varying options available of the health of the population,” he said.

Data submitted by regional health authorities for the period January to September showed that out of the 2128 deaths related to NCDs, heart disease accounted for 48 per cent, diabetes 22 per cent, cancer 13 per cent and cerebrovascular disease 17 per cent.

Deyalsingh said the goal of his ministry’s NCD plan is to reduce the burden of preventable mortality due to NCDs before age 70 by 25 per cent by 2025. He said he anticipated opposition from some sections of the population, including the medical fraternity, to the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are going to have a challenge and some research has to be done on this and this has to be the anti-vaccine kickback that we are going to get when a COVID vaccine is launched, that we will have to find out what leads the population and some in the medical fraternity and we cannot exclude the medical fraternity from this because there are some doctors locally and internationally who buy into the conspiracy theory of vaccines,” he said.

The minister also noted the importance of ethics in health research.

“As Trinidad and Tobago increases capacity to conduct essential health research it is imperative to ensure that research is conducted ethically so that the well being of those who participate in research is adequately protected and that institutions involved in the conduct of research assume their responsibility in ensuring that that research is ethical,” he said.

The minister praised the organisers of the conference for allotting time in their discussions for mental health care and the use of marijuana in the management for cancer. He said T&T is at the cusp of legalising marijuana for medical purposes.

The conference will run for two days.