Both Minister of Health Senator Luke Browne and opposition lawmaker Daniel Cummings are standing by their positions regarding the supply of tetanus vaccine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines last year.
“The Officer responsible for Immunisation in the Ministry and the Chief Medical Officer made a statement about the availability of tetanus vaccine in the country in the recent past. I stand by that statement,” Browne told iWitness News by email on Sunday.
“It is one thing to say that there was a limited supply of the vaccine, and that some clinics and health centres did not have it, and it is quite another thing to say that there was none of the vaccine in the country.
“I would also like to stress the point that the vast majority of the population already has lifetime immunity against tetanus because of their inoculation under the schedule specified in the Ministry’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation,” he said.
It was the minister’s most recent statement on the issues since Cummings told Parliament on Jan. 29 that tetanus vaccines were not available in SVG, a claim that the minister immediately and strenuous denied.
His ministry issued statements supporting the minister’s position and citing the relevant healthcare professional.
Cummings told a press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday that he knew there was no tetanus vaccine in the country because several of his constituents came to him with “dreadful cases” where their medical practitioners wanted to give them a vaccine, out of an abundance of caution.
“And it was not available anywhere. It was not available anywhere. Why would anybody want to hide the hide the fact that medicine was out,” Cummings said.
Since his comments, radio announcer Dwight “Bing” Joseph has said on his morning show on Boom FM that he was unable to get a tetanus vaccine at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and several health centres for three weeks between October and November 2018.
In its press statement on Jan. 31, the Ministry of Health said there was never an instance over the last 18 years when there were no tetanus vaccines in SVG and that the last supply was received in November 2018.
Cummings said his information is that the government did receive a shipment of tetanus vaccines towards the end of 2018.
He, however, said it took them quite some time to distribute the vaccine, despite the request of many health care facilities.
The opposition lawmaker said he was reliably informed that even when he was speaking in Parliament on Jan. 29, there was at least one clinic that did not have any vaccine.
“I didn’t speak my word accidentally,” Cummings said.
The vaccine is used to prevent tetanus — also known as lockjaw — a bacterial infection characterised by muscle spasms.