Government officials “wasted” their time “running down this false claim”, said Terrence Deyalsingh at a press conference on Wednesday, expressing his frustration over Minaj’s claims.
“One of the reasons we could not respond yesterday in real time to Ms Minaj was because we had to check and make sure what she was claiming was either true or false,” Mr Deyalsingh told reporters.
On Monday, the Trinidad-born star caused an uproar on social media that reverberated across the political spectrum and her own fanbase, known as the Barbz, when she shared the reason why she did not attend the 2021 Met Gala.
The event required its guests to be vaccinated, something Minaj expressed her apprehensions against, as she said she wanted to do enough research on her own.
Minaj claimed in a tweet that her “cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen.”
“Unfortunately we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim. It is – as far as we know, at this point in time – there has been no such reported either, side effect or adverse event (sic),” Mr Deyalsingh said, adding that the country’s ministry took such allegations seriously, “whether it is on social media or mainstream media”.
Minaj’s tweet has been roundly criticised, not just because it was perceived by many to fuel vaccine hesitancy, but also because of the unverified and speculative nature of the comments that were spread to her large global fanbase, according to many commentators.
Her comments come at a time of widespread global vaccine hesitancy and when the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago has been struggling to fight the phenomenon amid protests by a section of its people.
Last week, dozens of people protested against Covid vaccines at Queen’s Park Savannah, Trinidad, forcing police to take action, reported news website West Indies and Caribbean News.
At least two people were detained following the protests.
The island nation, which is inhabited by a little over a million people, has fully vaccinated 441,000.
The country has reported just over 47,000 total Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic and has almost 3,900 positive active cases as of 16 September, according to official data.
Minaj, who has since defended herself over the criticism levelled against her, is yet to respond to the remarks made by Mr Deyalsingh.
The rapper’s comments have also elicited responses from the White House and the British government.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he was not familiar with Minaj’s work, but was acquainted with Nikki Kanani, the medical director of primary care at NHS England – as she favours vaccinations, unlike the Grammy-nominated rapper.
In the same conference, Mr Johnson’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Minaj “should be ashamed” for “peddling untruths”.
Responding to the criticism, Minaj posted an audio message mocking the British prime minister using a fake British accent.
Anthony Fauci, one of the US’s top infectious diseases expert, also weighed in, saying “she should be thinking twice about propagating information” based on a one-off anecdote and not science.