The international community continues to grapple with COVID-19 almost 18 months after it first reared its head. While there have been varying levels of success, it continues to be a major nightmare for many others.
The countries that have had some success are those that we're able to vaccinate a substantial amount of their citizens as they race towards herd immunity. Those are the first world nations who were able to buy vaccines in huge amounts, which some now admit they no longer need and are giving away. The US, for example, says it will donate 60 million doses to countries in need.
But the big picture is the impact vaccine inequity has had on many countries, including T&T.
T&T, like many other nations, is a non-vaccine producing country that continues to grapple with three problems — vaccine availability, vaccine hesitancy and vaccine preference.
This country may have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with China being the saviour with its promised supply of Sinopharm Beijing vaccines. But this is now challenged by hesitancy. Although it received WHO approval for emergency use just over a week ago, the Sinopharm vaccine has not been marketed globally like the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. It is also new on the market but perhaps the biggest challenge is that it was made in the very country where the virus started.
Negative comments and questions from members of the Opposition, which fuel doubts about the efficacy and safety of the Sinopharm vaccine, only serve to deepen the population’s fears and concerns. The Opposition and other naysayers must realise quickly that these are not normal times and we need to work together to save lives. They thus need to stop the fear-mongering.
We are experiencing a pandemic that continues to change. When you think you have an answer, along comes another variant head of the beast seemingly worse than the last. If we don’t vaccinate and observe all the protocols, the problem will threaten our very survival and could wreak havoc on the country. The only way to achieve a level of protection is reaching herd immunity and getting the population to understand everyone needs to be vaccinated.
Currently, we must acquire the vaccines available to us. Some of our Caribbean neighbours, desperate to achieve herd immunity, have gone the route of the Russian Sputnik vaccine, which has no WHO approval. At least we can rest assured the Sinopharm vaccine has such approval.
The Government must now develop a plan to market the Sinopharm vaccine with information from the WHO, Chinese government and the manufacturers so that people understand its efficacy, alongside efforts to acquire the USA-manufactured vaccines.
CMO Dr Roshan Parasram has indicated that to achieve herd immunity, 1 million citizens must be inoculated. The Minister of Health also claims we can achieve herd immunity in six to seven months but everyone must get on the vaccine train. This newspaper, and the Guardian Media Group, stand ready to fully support Government’s plan to achieve this in the shortest timeframe.