Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has described the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among law enforcement and national security personnel as preposterous.
Hinds’ remarks came on the heels of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s expressed disappointment at the low levels of vaccination among members of the T&T Defence Force, T&T Police Service and T&T Prison Service, including its officers and inmates.
Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, Hinds said law enforcement officers are adults who are hopefully learned, educated and logical.
“I have looked at all of the reasons why people will not want to take the vaccine, so the public education campaign and the public availability, I know that they will benefit from it. Whatever they asked for, we provided it and provided the personnel in their own unit to administer it,” Hinds said.
“So as far as I’m concerned, they big and they have sense, it has been made available to you. We encourage everybody in the national security as frontline operators and I consider it preposterous (referring to the hesitancy).”
On prisoner hesitancy, Hinds said he had gone into the prison and addressed the female population and was told after his address there was excitement and positiveness.
“The Commissioner of Prisons reported to me that 40 per cent of them have decided that they would take the vaccine,” Hinds said.
He said he has also spoken to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and they have agreed to go into the prisons with other health professionals and speak to all or most of the prisoners via the prisons radio/intercom facility.
“We will address them, the professionals will address them, in efforts to persuade them to making use of the vaccine that we have made available for each and every single one of them. In addition to that, we took the decision that we would get appropriate videos or audio recordings and broadcast them in the prison so that inmates can hear that, alongside the propaganda and foolishness that some citizens of the world are hearing from persons who know nothing about the vaccines but are rich in commentary upon it.”
Hinds said on Saturday, he spoke to Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan following the PM’s conversation and Pulchan confirmed 700 prisoners had taken the vaccination.
Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshall Darryl Daniel meanwhile said they are working feverishly on advising their people accordingly. He said the membership displayed the same concerns of the general population.
“I can’t say I’m disappointed but I have to continue to do what I have to do to convince members of the Defence Force.”
TTPS’ Social and Welfare Association president Gideon Dickson said, “We know it’s not mandatory right now but 43 per cent is an encouraging sight and within recent times more officers have submitted themselves to be vaccinated.”
However, he said the hesitancy levels had fallen in recent times. Dickson said he was fully vaccinated and has used himself as an ambassador to encourage his colleagues.
Prisons Officers Associations president Ceron Richards said he knows Pulchan has a plan to encourage officers to take the vaccine.
“Our position is that whenever there are vaccines to be taken, we have ensured that they are available for prisons officers who wish to take the vaccine. We also note that you cannot force someone to take the vaccine based on the legislation, based on the Constitution, but we, as the association, are always advocating to ensure that there are vaccines available for prison officers who want to be vaccinated,” Richards said.
National Nursing Association president Idi Stuart said he was proud to note nurses are the highest vaccinated among all professionals, except doctors. However, he said the PM should be concerned about other issues, including better wages for nurses and parity of treatment with the health sector.
Stuart, however, noted that nursing personnel continue to get vaccinated and are doing a good job at swaying public opinion.
“It is a process, so allow the process to continue. Persons will come to the realisation at some point and we should just keep encouraging persons and not casting aspersions. This is a personal decision at this time and allow everyone to make that personal decision where they would feel comfortable,” he said.
Inter-Religious Organisation head, Pundit Lloyd Mukram Sirjoo, meanwhile said religious leaders who were encouraging their flock not to take vaccines were not under the IRO.
“Those who are advising against it are other communities, other religious communities. I don’t want to name them, I have an idea of some of them because I’ve been hearing it, but as the IRO, comprising of 27 religious bodies in this country, we all, all 27 of us, encourage our following to get vaccinated because we believe that is the only way out of this pandemic. We have to get vaccinated.”