Health Minister Terrence Dyalsingh makes his way to the sitting of the Parliament at the Red House in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday made a clarion call to more than half of the population, including 54,000 children between the ages of 12-18, who are not yet vaccinated, to take the jab.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 media conference, Deyalsingh warned of the dangers to people, particularly those who are unvaccinated, livelihoods and the health care system, if the Delta variant takes root in the country. He also made a special appeal to people with diabetes to get vaccinated.

While one might think 400,000 people being vaccinated is a lot, he pointed out that a large percentage of the 1.4 million people – 60.8 per cent – is still not vaccinated.

Deyalsingh said 32 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, while 39. 2 per cent had received at least one shot.

Noting that the adult population over the age of 18 is over a million people, he said, “We have to reach a couple hundred thousand people still, two, three, four hundred thousand people still, to get us out of the woods.”

He noted that the scientific data has proven that even if vaccinated people contract the virus, they will experience a mild disease and have a 99.1 per cent chance of not dying from COVID-19.

Deyalsingh said so far, they have been able to detect the Delta variant at quarantine sites and “the one or two” who were allowed to go home after they presented their negative PCRs were fully vaccinated.

“So far so good. However, if the Delta variant, as it has in other countries, gets a hold in the community setting amongst a largely unvaccinated population, things could turn bad literally, Dr Hinds, overnight, in hours, not days. The entire health system will become overwhelmed, the economy could be affected, so I want to make a clarion call this morning for adults to be vaccinated, no appointment is needed, no lining up. It is so easy and your choice of vaccines.”

As he turned his attention to the vaccination of children between the ages of 12 to 18, Deyalsingh said teachers have expressed concern that some children want to be vaccinated but their parents are against it.

He explained that based on the Ministry of Education’s data, there are 90,000 school children between 12 to 18 who are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. But he is worried that only 16.7 per cent received two doses, 39.4 per cent received one dose, while 60.6 per cent has not yet been vaccinated.

The minister said this amounts to 54,000 unvaccinated children.

“The Delta variant so far has been kept out of the community as far as we know, it doesn’t mean that it is not in community. It simply means, Dr Hinds, that we have not discovered one as yet. For you to discover one, it has to be there and it has to be there for a little while.”

Meanwhile, Deyalsingh said his ministry is also trying to encourage diabetics to be vaccinated, as he cited advertisements in the newspaper and on social media that began yesterday targeting this group.

“Our research is telling us that people with diabetes still believe that because they have diabetes they should not be vaccinated, that is what is circulating on social media.”

He said there are approximately 182,000 to 280,000 diabetics in Trinidad and Tobago who are three times more likely, according to the advertisements, to have severe complications from COVID-19, at greater risk of hospitalisation and death.

The Minister assured the vaccine is safe for diabetics.