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Nicki Minaj

Trinidadian-born US rapper Onika “Nicki Minaj” Maraj’s COVID-19 claim is not only false but wasted the resources of the Ministry of Health.

So said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday, as he dismissed a claim made by the rapper that her cousin’s friend here in T&T suffered impotence and swollen testicles after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Asked about the rapper’s claim, which went viral globally and caused international backlash, Deyalsingh said the ministry did a thorough investigation and there was no proof to substantiate her claim.

“Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday (Tuesday)running down this false claim. It is, as far as we know at this point in time, there has been no such reported side effect of adverse event and what was sad about this is that it wasted our time yesterday trying to track it down.”

According to Deyalsingh, whether claims are made on social media or mainstream media, his ministry takes them all seriously and investigates them.

“As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported such side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad or, I dear say Dr Hinds, anywhere else, none that we know of anywhere else in the world.”

Given the vaccine hesitancy in the country, he believes the rapper’s claim will make the situation worse.

“Her tweet certainly did not help because people like her are social influencers and they do carry some sway, so it certainly did not help and it will make our job a little harder, which we don’t need right now.”

Minaj has 22.6 million followers on Twitter. On Monday, while responding to questions by followers on why she was not attending the Met Gala in the US, which required participants to be fully vaccinated, the rapper Tweeted, “If I get vaccinated it won’t for the Met. It’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research. I’m working on that now …”

She urged people to wear their masks but in attempting to explain her reason for not being vaccinated, she said a family member’s friend in Trinidad was experiencing adverse side effects from the vaccine.

She tweeted, “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen … His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”

Her comments immediately ignited a furore on social media, with several international medical experts, including Dr Anthony Fauci—the leading infectious disease expert in the US, journalists, television personalities and others dismissing her claim as untrue.

Minaj also got into heated exchanges with several others, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Yesterday, she claimed the backlash prompted Twitter to lock her account. On her Instagram Stories account, she said she could no longer tweet and was in “Twitter jail” because “they didn’t like what I was saying.”

However, a Twitter spokesperson denied this to the Los Angeles Times. “Twitter did not take any enforcement action on the account referenced,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail to The Times, yesterday.

The social-media platform, however, disputes that.

“Twitter did not take any enforcement action on the account referenced,” a spokesperson for the company said in an e-mail to The Times on Wednesday.