Today, State employees working in a range of frontline and strategic positions have an important decision to make. They can choose either to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and thereby contribute to public health, while providing themselves with extra protection in the event that they are exposed to the deadly SARSCOV- 2 virus, or they can choose not to be vaccinated and thereby deprive themselves of the security of their employment and continue to leave themselves exposed to the risk of being infected by the virus.
SEARCHLIGHT has been consistent in articulating our position. In the midst of this devastating pandemic, mass vaccination is the only rational choice available to Vincentians. We understand, of course, that there are multiple reasons which explain the vaccine hesitancy and vaccine hostility in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). But we also cannot close our eyes to the blindingly obvious. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and represent the single greatest tool available in the toolbox for us to stem the wave of COVID-19 infections that is raging across SVG.
The deadline that now confronts our workforce is therefore of immense concern to the trajectory of the pandemic in SVG. The virus first struck us on March 11, 2020. And for more than 14 months our medical authorities have been exceedingly successful in limiting the pandemic’s impact on the country. In the past two months, however, new and more lethal variants of the virus have broken through the barriers of containment and struck us with the force of a volcano.
Today, more than 5000 Vincentians have been infected. Worse, 73 Vincentians have fallen as the virus continues to lay waste to lives and livelihoods. Against this catastrophe, the government has had to resort to every element of its power to guide Vincentians through this nightmare.
Nothing the government can do however, to mitigate the economic devastation that the virus has inflicted on SVG can withstand the unchecked spread of the virus throughout the nation. Indeed, as the Prime Minister has observed in a recent publication, if the virus continues to spread with impunity, the centre will not hold, and things will fall apart.
The choice that therefore confronts our frontline and strategic workers today is civic responsibility of the very highest order: get vaccinated not only to protect themselves from the virus, but to protect the nation itself.
The choice to remain unvaccinated is potentially deadly, not only to the individual but also to every single person with whom he or she might come into contact. It is this awareness that governs the decision that the government made in relation to our frontline and strategic workers.
If they choose not to take the vaccine, this threatens the lives of everyone around them. Patients need nurses. Students need teachers. Citizens need the police. No frontline or strategic worker should place at risk the lives of those whom they serve.
Every Vincentian has a stake in the choice made by our frontline and strategic workers at this time. They can elect to take the vaccine and thereby lend a massive boost to our fight to defeat COVID-19. They can show the nation that we will win the fight not through the pursuit of individual ambitions but under the umbrella of collective security.