Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal during yesterday’s conference at the Leader of the Opposition’s Office in Port-of-Spain.

Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to be the first to take the recently approved Sinopharm Beijing vaccine.

In a press release issued yesterday, Moonilal sought to question the criticism he received from Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh after he raised issues with the vaccine, which got World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency use approval, last week.

“The very people who launched the speediest attack on me for raising concerns, already in the global press, about the WHO-approved Sinopharm vaccine, should ALL take it first to demonstrate, by action, ultimate confidence in its efficacy,” Moonilal said.

Moonilal stated that he was not against vaccination as he was among Parliamentarians, who were vaccinated with the first batch AstraZeneca vaccines this country received from the WHO’s COVAX arrangement and through a donation from the Indian Government.

“Let me reiterate, I support an extensive vaccination program and indeed availed myself when that moment came. But we must be cautious as we go forward with the multiplicity of vaccines coming to our shores,” Moonilal said.

Moonilal noted that his concerns were based on international reports on the vaccine, which he attached to his release.

“I noticed that Deyalsingh did not attack the international press. There is global disquiet, to say the least, about the lack of transparency over the clinical trial data emanating from China in relation to this vaccine,” Moonilal said.

“This does not mean the vaccine is bad. But that is the issue. A real issue,” Moonilal added.

He said he was merely doing his job as an MP in raising critical, uncomfortable, and disturbing questions.

“I am not in a popularity contest…Should I promise never to raise a matter of vaccines again, or support this government with anything they find to inject?” Moonilal said.

Moonilal noted that the Opposition had continuously raised issues with the country’s porous borders and over their potential to facilitate the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19.

“This abject failure to secure our borders deserves an inquiry and court marshal, Rowley and Stuart Young should walk the plank for this calamity,” he said.

Describing the daily infection tally as test match scores, Moonilal questioned the government’s apparent resistance to being questioned.

“Yet no one in authority will take the vaccine. I ask why?” Moonilal said.

“Keith Rowley must take this vaccine in a full media and public event and show confidence at the highest level of leadership,” Moonilal said.

Moonilal did not mention that Rowley was not among those vaccinated as he contracted the virus at the very start of the Government’s vaccination drive and has since recovered. The WHO recommends that unvaccinated persons who contract the virus wait six months after their recovery before taking a vaccine.

In a press release issued on Saturday, Deyalsingh strongly condemned Moonilal’s statements, which he said were baseless and not grounded in science or fact.

He noted that all vaccines included the one taken by Moonilal and him went through the same stringent WHO approval process.

“WHO has confirmed the Sinopharm Beijing vaccine as having a very good safety and efficacy profile. On the basis of all available evidence, the Sinopharm vaccine efficacy is estimated at 78.1 per cent for all age groups 18 years and over,” Deyalsingh said.

He noted that the vaccine had been authorised in 45 countries with 65 million doses already administered.

“The erroneous comments made by MP Moonilal that T&T will be used as guinea pigs only reinforces the MP’s deliberate attempts to derail the country’s vaccination drive and reinforces the continuous adverse position by the Opposition, led by Kamla Persad Bissessar, to anything positive for the people of T&T,” Deyalsingh said.

After the WHO approval was granted last week, Deyalsingh announced that the country is expected to receive 100,000 doses of Sinopharm, a gift from the Chinese Government, this week.

Since the Government’s vaccination programme started almost 60,000 have been inoculated with 1,000 of them receiving their second dose.