I have run out of adjectives to describe what is happening in our land. To secure passage of the budget we had to refer to the highly comic action of replacing a senator who was tested positive for the corona virus with a retired parliamentarian; all of this to ensure a quorum of eight members in parliament.
Fancy stuff indeed. Did the framers of the constitution have this kind of thing in mind? The question remains, why was the budget debate not delayed enabling participation by all members of parliament given the fact that eight members on the government side had tested positive for the virus. There was such an urgency to have everything completed within the week that two ministers were unable to make their contribution and the Minister of Finance to do his final rebuttal. I am not sure about the reasons for the urgency.
We should become aware that pompousness and high-handedness will not always carry the day. There was so much pomp about the kinds of masks that should be worn and where members of the Opposition who were either unvaccinated or did not declare their status, should sit even though tested negative for the virus. Behind all of this was supposed to be health concerns for those vaccinated. But then like a slap in the face with irony at a height it turned out that eight members on the other side of the fence who were vaccinated, had contracted the virus. Now this is not something that one should laugh about because we now know that vaccinated or unvaccinated, it is possible to contract the virus and even pass it on.
What the past two or three months should have taught us is that things are changing rapidly, and we are learning more about the virus and vaccines every day. Protocols have to be constantly reviewed, therefore how could one be high and mighty about something that is not under our control and about which we are in a learning stage. This is not to question the call for people to be vaccinated, but our approach is what I have always questioned. I note from a survey commissioned by UNICEF that SVG has the most vaccine hesitant population among six Caribbean countries. Of 800 persons surveyed 58 percent or 464 were vaccinated. It means that 42 percent or 336 would have provided information about their reluctance to be vaccinated. “A change in communication strategies appears to be the main recommendation for SVG as it relates to vaccine hesitancy among its population.” (Searchlight January 18, 2022) The report suggests that “Communication strategies need to speak to key concerns, target the demographic profile of the unvaccinated and hone the use of non-governmental personalities and influences.”
In most of my columns in which I touched on the vaccine issue I stressed the need to emphasise education and to have a good communication strategy. This might be the way to go but I have to smile. Do we have non-governmental personalities? This is of course a rhetorical question. The point is that people in this country are classified politically based on what they say or do.
And that is the crux of the matter. To say certain things makes you either pro-government or anti-government. And there the story ends!
The report makes some interesting revelations. Twenty-five percent felt the vaccine was developed too quickly and they did not know what was in it and considered it to be unsafe. This is a matter that should be easily answered by the medical authorities. It is quite ironic too because most of us who go to a doctor take whatever is given to us and hardly ask questions. It is perhaps good that the vaccines currently being used are forcing people to finally ask questions. Sixteen percent were unsure about long-term effects. At the moment there might not be an answer to this. Consideration must also be given to the 14 percent that said they did not trust the government or medical authorities. Of concern is that 65 percent said that their views of taking the vaccine have not changed over time. Add to this the 24 percent that are now less likely to get vaccinated, and there is a hell of a task ahead. At least however, one is not groping in the dark. We are in the meantime becoming more and more confused, having difficulty trying to assess all the information with which we are bombarded from social and traditional media. Let us hope very soon there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian