Opposition lawmaker Daniel Cummings said that the alleged absence of tetanus vaccine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a period of time last year is a part of a bigger problem in the ministry of health.
The Ministry of Health says that there was never a time over the past 18 years when there was none of the vaccine used to prevent tetanus — also known as lockjaw — a bacterial infection characterised by muscle spasms.
But a radio announcer had said publicly that for some three weeks in 2018, he was unable to get a tetanus vaccine at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital or several health centers across the country.
Cummings told a press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday that the nation knows the government laboratory often cannot perform many tests because equipment is not there or is not functioning.
However, more often than not, the reagents needed to perform the test are not available, he said.
The West Kingstown Member of Parliament said that a lot of these reagents are purchased through local suppliers, often on credit and many of the suppliers have refused to give credit any longer to the government.
“And that is why so many persons have to go to private laboratories to do the simplest of tests many times in the hospital.”
He said that government was so recalcitrant in its payment to the Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (PPS) of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States that the PPS had suspended the supply of medicines to SVG at one point.
Cummings had also made that revelation in Parliament, which then minister of health, Douglas Slater had denied, until Cummings read the evidence.
Cummings made his claim about the absence of tetanus vaccines on Jan. 29, during the debate of the Estimates of Income and Expenditure for 2019.
He told the press conference that he wanted to remind the public that they must not feel confident because the government puts money in a document saying how much they are going to spend on health.
He said he has pointed out many times that even with the small amount allocated to health, the government never spends the budgeted amount and always falls short in critical supplies.
“And what is worse, some of its creditors have become tired of supplying materials [and this puts] the life of our people at jeopardy,” Cummings said.