Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he is worried about the threat the COVID-19 delta virus poses to the country.

Dr Rowley says he is largely concerned because of the refusal of some citizens to get vaccinated.

At the ceremonial opening of the new Malabar Government Primary School, on Thursday evening, Dr Rowley, once again, urged more people to get inoculated.

“I am concerned. I am worried that the delta virus could enter Trinidad and Tobago and meet a largely unvaccinated population. If that happens, we would have passed up the opportunity to be at our best and we may find ourselves swimming upstream, and saying I wish I had done this or done that,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Health’s update on Thursday evening, 498,016 people have received their first dose, while 381,497 people have received two doses.

Another 294 people received the required sole shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, making the total number of fully vaccinated people – 381,791 people.

Dr Rowley, at the school’s opening, said the government did its job by acquiring vaccines and it is now up to individuals to do their part.

While acknowledging some people cannot be vaccinated for legitimate health reasons, Dr Rowley said the vast majority of people have no excuse.

And given the increased threat the delta variant poses to children, in particular, the Prime Minister repeated his call for parents to carry their 12-year-olds to 18-year-olds to be vaccinated.

“What I would like is that if it gets in this country and starts moving around in our population that our young ones are vaccinated and much better to evade the threat,” he said.

“The question arises – if these dangers exist and there are solutions to the problem – what is the role of the government in ensuring those solutions are had? I leave that question with you.”

The Prime Minister, on Monday, said the government may consider making the vaccination of children, between the ages of 12 and 18 years old, mandatory, if the response of parents was insufficient.

The government is using the Pfizer vaccine, the only WHO-approved vaccine for children, for students above 12 years old.

“If by the period that we’ve set, which is mid-September, we look back on it and we see only a population of vaccinated students which is well below the herd immunity level of 60% to 70% then the Government will have to act,” Dr Rowley said on Monday.

“So far we have left it up to parents to be reasonable, to be understanding, to be caring and to be responsible and if it gets to that the Government will have no difficulty in intervening on the children’s behalf as we did with measles, with mumps, with other aspects of healthcare where the children cannot make the decisions themselves.”

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry confirmed two more cases of the COVID-19 delta virus strain, bringing the known total of cases to five.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh also revealed on Wednesday that eight children are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Reporter: Joshua Seemungal