If we had any doubt, the success of the United States’ vaccination programme has shown that mass vaccination is the only true way out of this COVID-19 pandemic.
The US has now relaxed its measures and Americans, once fully vaccinated, can return to living their lives as they would have, had there not been a pandemic. The only caveat is for those who may be immunocompromised.
It is why Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, yesterday called for closing the “glaring gaps” on access to COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean by relying less on imports and more on expanded regional production of medical products, including vaccines.
She noted that in Latin America and the Caribbean, only three per cent of its citizens are vaccinated, and this does not bode well for our ability to emerge from lockdowns and the pain, both economic and health-wise, that the region has suffered.
It was also noted that T&T was one of the countries that had seen its deaths double in the last week from COVID-19, a sign that we are not doing well with the control of the virus in this third wave.
But we did not need the PAHO director to tell us what we ought to know, that the Government’s inability to procure vaccines in sufficient numbers is going to lead to the kind of death and pain we are seeing, unless as citizens we again find the strength and discipline to adhere even more rigidly to the public health protocols.
Yes, we have been at this for more than a year, and yes, we are all tired and want our lives back, but to do otherwise is to risk having no life at all.
It is why the increasing numbers of arrests by the police of people breaching the curfew is discouraging and unfortunate.
The police cannot always be everywhere and there comes a time when we must decide that self-preservation and saving the lives of our family, neighbours and community demands that we stop the unnecessary movement. Stay at home means exactly that.
But the Government is not without responsibility here. The country has gotten another gift of vaccines, this time 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm shots courtesy the Chinese government.
With the requirement for two does per person, the Minister of Health is excited that by the time the next shipment of Covax vaccines arrive and are administered, there would be at least 110,000 people vaccinated in T&T.
If the Government continues with its policy of giving Tobago 10 per cent of the vaccines, it would mean within the next two months, one can expect that 7.5 per cent of Trinidad’s population would have gotten jabs alongside 20 per cent of Tobago’s population.
This is nowhere near what we need to ensure we can safely emerge from these lockdowns and the state must do all it can and communicate with the population on the way forward.
Meanwhile, in lieu of more vaccines arriving, citizens must do their best and exercise more discipline than we have shown recently.