Wednesday 23 October, 2019

No measles outbreak in T&T, Deyalsingh assures

The current push toward ensuring vaccination against measles is only a precautionary measure against the disease which has seen a resurgence in the United States and continental Europe.

That’s the assurance from Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who assured that the country is not facing any threat of measles, nor is the public health sector treating with any cases of the disease.

The last indigenous case of the disease recorded was in 1991, while the last imported case on record was in 1997.

The Minister raised the issue of vaccination against measles at a press conference on Friday to alert the population to the need to achieve a vaccination rate of 95 percent herd immunity.

Deyalsingh explained that this occurs when 95 percent of the population is vaccinated so that it breaks transmission to the remaining unvaccinated percentage of the population.

He noted that vaccination rates were below target from 2012 to 2016 ranging in the 80 percentile.

There was a marked improvement in 2017, with an estimated 83 percent achieved.  

The Minister noted, however, that these figures were only estimates and the actual percentages could be higher as it did not include figures from the private sector.

“We may be achieving a 95 percent vaccination rate… but out of an abundance of caution of what is happening globally…I am taking absolutely no chances and I want to get this country as close to maybe 100 percent if possible, hence the reason for going public with this issue on Friday.”

Addressing concerns from the Opposition over the influx of visitors from Venezuela, Deyalsingh said it was not his intention to make it a Venezuela issue as the country that is posing the most problems is not T&T’s South American neighbours, but the countries such as the United States, England and Italy which he said are seeing an “explosive rise” in measles cases.

The Minister said, however, the two counties of concern are St Patrick and St George Central.

He indicated that the Ministry will be seeking to target the elders of those communities to encourage them to understand the science behind the need for vaccination and to get herd immunity up to 95 percent in the country.

Taking note of the growing anti-vax population which has also taken root in Trinidad and Tobago, Deyalsingh said the Ministry would be taking all steps to combat that, noting that globally, efforts are being made by other Governments to shut down Facebook pages, YouTube channels and Instagram accounts that promote this anti-vax propaganda.

“We have reached the stage where a vaccine confined to the dustbin of history in 2019 is now one of the 10 most important health concerns for WHO, and it is largely due to conspiracy theories,” he said.

“I have been at the forefront battling the anti-vax movement…  We in T&T have to take all steps to combat that,” Deyalsingh added.

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