PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad –Health authorities Monday said they are still investigating reports that at least four people may have died after being given the first dose of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
“We are still compiling and validating the vaccination information. However, there have not been many cases where vaccines were reported to have been on board or have been delivered in the event of a death,” epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds told reporters during the Ministry of Health’s virtual media conference.
“In those where it has happened, there are maybe about four or five we have on record, and they’re usually persons who would have contracted illness pretty soon after having the vaccine, but we’re still attempting to get the documentation on the vaccine itself from some of those individuals. So that’s something that will be refined and clarified.”
Dr. Hinds told reporters that the deaths resulting post-vaccination were persons who only had their first dose, and those deaths would have occurred less than two weeks after vaccination.
He said such a result is in keeping with the expectation that the first dose of vaccine still needs a couple of weeks before one’s immunity is boosted sufficiently.
“And even with the first dose of vaccine onboard, the immunity is not optimized yet, which is why your second dose of vaccine is of utmost importance. So if you had that first dose, you need to have the second dose to get the most out of your vaccination, both in terms of the strength of the immune response and the duration, meaning how long that immune response will last,” Hinds said.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health reported that 204 209 persons had received their first jab of the various vaccines, while 71 246 had received their second dose.
Meanwhile, the ministry said the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, has been approved for use among the breastfeeding population.
Director in the Directorate of Women’s Health, Dr. Adesh Sirjusingh, told reporters that the decision was taken by the national technical advisory group chaired by the Chief Medical Officer Roshan Parasram,
He said that the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved for use.
“As a result of a national immunization technical advisory group of experts chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, they have completed their deliberations, and as of yesterday formal decision were made concerning the breastfeeding and the approvals after considering all of the documentations we are now allowing the roll-out of the use of the Sinopharm vaccine for the breastfeeding population, the approval does not cover the AstraZeneca vaccine based on the information before the committee,” he said.
Sirjusingh said that since the start of the pandemic, 170 pregnant women tested positive for COVID-19.
“To date, since the start of the pandemic, we have 170 pregnant women who have now contracted COVID-19 at various stages of pregnancy, and not all have been delivered. I was last here in March, and at that time, we had 41 cases, so just like Trinidad and Tobago, we have seen a surge in the pregnant clientele,” he said.
Health authorities warn that pregnant women who have diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and asthma, as well as those who are over 35 or in the second half of pregnancy, are more likely to become seriously ill if they contract COVID-19.
Of the 170 positive pregnant women, he said, ten had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU). In addition to this, an increased risk of preterm delivery, hospitalization, and heart complications was observed.
Sirjusingh also urged pregnant women to attend prenatal clinics, reporting a fall-off had been observed in t recent times.
“As it regards our maternity and newborn services, we continue to offer all our services. These are satirical emergency services in a safe environment across all the Regional Health Authorities. In addition, we have established particular areas for COVID-positive women and those who have emergencies.
“I want to reassure the public, and I want to encourage all pregnant women to attend your clinics. We see some fall off in this. All routine in-person care, all support continues. We have also established a telemedicine service for our quarantined patients if you have COVID and you are at home.
“For those who have delivered, you have postnatal clinics and well-baby checkups. We need all our babies to continue the mandatory vaccine program that we have against all those diseases,” he said.