A mass COVID-19 vaccination drive kicked off yesterday with thousands of citizens flocking to vaccination sites across the country to be inoculated - some with their every first jabs, others their second doses.
It was heartening to see that so many people want to get vaccinated.
Across the world, it is people who have been fully vaccinated who are giving themselves a fighting chance against the disease.
In the midst of this vaccine rollout, there is now a national debate about mandatory vaccination, sparked by no less a person than Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who made it clear on Thursday in an interview, that his Government is prepared to go the route of making vaccines mandatory if citizens did not heed the call to vaccinate.
Viewpoints on whether Government can do this, range from it requiring a three-fifths majority in the Parliament to a simple change in the public health ordinance, given that we are in a public health pandemic and under a State of Emergency. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General will have to decide what is required should the country get to such stage.
But at a time when the world is fighting a virus that seems no closer to going away now than it did at the same time last year, one would think the Government would not have to yield a big stick to get citizens to do what they need to protect themselves.
Yes, we understand fully that some people legitimately cannot be vaccinated, but the majority who do not face such challenges should take the jab.
The Government should not have to legislate to get citizens to do what is needed to save their own lives. Many among us are aware that in order to enter schools, children have to be vaccinated against a range of things, including polio, tetanus, yellow fever and measles.
Today, the world is in crisis because of COVID 19 and its emerging variants. In countries where vaccines are aplenty, governments are using varying tactics to get citizens inoculated. Yet, many poor countries are begging for vaccines for citizens who want to get vaccinated but can’t.
T&T has overcome its own vaccine hurdles to in acquiring an adequate supply. The jury is out on whether the Government will have to make vaccinations mandatory. Truth be told, without mass vaccinations, there is no hope of a return to normalcy.
The country’s borders reopen today, welcoming international flights and travellers. But those citizens who continue to resist vaccination will have no protection against the variants, of which the deadliest is the Delta now rampant in the United States, which may also enter with this activity.
As of yesterday, T&T was 18 shy of losing 1,000 people to the virus.
On the other end, 234,431 people had received their first dose of vaccine and 151,831 were fully vaccinated. These citizens did what was required to save lives.
However, whether the Government can or cannot make vaccines mandatory should not influence doing what is right to save lives and to get this economy going again to save jobs and livelihoods. The longer we remain in this state, the worse things will become. No one wants that.