Minister rebuts claim of no tetanus vaccine in SVG
Following a heated exchange between two parliamentarians in the House of Assembly this week over the availability of tetanus vaccines here, the Ministry of Health has asserted that at no time in the last 18 years has the vaccine been unavailable.
On Tuesday, Daniel Cummings, the parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, during debate on the 2019 Estimates alleged that there were no tetanus vaccines at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. He further alleged that this has been the case for the last six months.
“Mr Speaker, currently, if I get what people commonly refer to as a ‘nail jook’ and I go to the hospital, there is no tetanus vaccine in the country. Neither in the hospital nor…,” Cummings said before he was interrupted by health minister, Luke Browne, who stood on a point of order to refute Cummings’ claim.
Browne said “The honourable member is misleading the House. That is absolutely not true and I would like him to stick to the truth when making his presentations”.
“It can be verified, but I want to tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it is not true that there’s no tetanus vaccine in St Vincent and the Grenadines and I hope he does not continue to go down this unfortunate vein with his presentation,” the health minister said.
Browne also volunteered to have tetanus shots brought to the House so that he could prove that the vaccines were indeed available in the country.
However, Cummings said that it is not the first time that a minister of Health for the Unity Labour Party wanted to prove him wrong with the statements he has made in the House.
A release coming from the Ministry of Health and the Environment yesterday said that “there was never a situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the past six months, or in the past 18 years for that matter, when there were no Tetanus Toxide vaccines in the country”.
The release said the most recent shipment of tetanus vaccines was received on November 27 last year. This shipment included 3000 doses of the adult vaccine, which has an expiry date of April 2021.
And presently, there is a stock level of 2000 doses, which is said to be sufficient enough to cover the target population.
“There was never a situation in the same period (last six months) when there was insufficient doses of the vaccine on hand to meet the needs of the population. This is contrary to the claim made by an opposition Parliamentarian during his contribution to the debate on the Estimates for 2019,” the release said.
In the release, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, the chief medical officer said that the tetanus vaccine is currently administered to all children when they enter primary school with a booster shot given prior to entering secondary school. She said that in 2018, all children requiring scheduled tetanus vaccines received them and everyone else qualified to receive the vaccine as per the World Health Organisation recommendations also got it.
“This schedule provides life time immunity. Therefore the majority of Vincentians are fully covered against tetanus infection. The implication is that it is not generally necessary for someone to receive a tetanus vaccine every time he or she gets a dog bite, is pierced by a piece of iron, as they would be immunised. However, where there is a risk of developing tetanus form such an exposure, tetanus immunoglobulin, which is in stock, can be administered,” the chief medical officer was quoted as saying.