Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has rubbished a claim that the Government has been promised money to get a certain percentage of the population vaccinated.
During a meeting earlier this week with over 200 employees of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority (SVGPA), Gonsalves was challenged on this matter by one of the employees.
“The way how you pushing the vaccine agenda, I want to know if any money has been offered to get a certain percentage of the Vincentian population vaccinated,” Sophia Baptiste asked.
The Prime Minister’s response was: “All that kind of talk has been bare rubbish; all that is bare rubbish. Am I a man who will do anything for money to sell out St Vincent [and the Grenadines]?”
Not to be daunted, Baptiste further said: “I was to get vaccinated some time but the way how you pushing the vaccine, it is the way you going about pushing it, I do not think that is right.”
Gonsalves said he is pushing the vaccines “because it is about lives and livelihood. I want to be able to make sure that people get pay at the end of the month.
“You can say so. I see the numbers; I know what is happening to the economy. I know what is happening to the health of the country. I know what is happening to the education system. I know what is happening to security. You feel safe and cocooned because you have a job at Port. Do you think that will last all the time? If we do not go about and have our frontline and strategic workers take the vaccine where do you think the money will come from?”
Baptiste returned that, “I am not going on what somebody tells me. It is the way how the vaccine is being forced down our throats and we do not know.”
Responding, the Prime Minister said: “No! It is not being forced down your throat. What we are doing here is what governments all over the world are seeking to do in making sure that you who are in a frontline or strategic job, take the vaccine. You cannot have it both ways.”
Baptiste acknowledged that she has not been vaccinated.
Bringing the exchange to an end Gonsalves said: …“Alright, if I guide you all the time and you do not want to listen to me on this point, then go ahead. I guide you all the time. I want to see a text tomorrow from you ‘Comrade I take the thing’.”
Turning to CEO of the SVGPA, Bishen John, Gonsalves said: “She is going to be late tomorrow morning.”
He then told Baptiste: “Come down early and go take the vaccine down by the carpark. It is good for you, it is good for your family, for the community.”
Gonsalves’ meeting this past Tuesday with employees of the SVGPA was called to discuss the issue of COVID19. Employees of the Port are among those deemed front line workers who are required to show proof of partial or full vaccination during the next 10 days, or lose their jobs. The meeting was held at the Geest Shed in Kingstown and lasted over two hours.
In the question and answer segment which followed the Prime Minister’s presentation, several workers took the opportunity to make their position on vaccination known.
One employee who sported dreadlocks made it known that he did not intend to take the vaccine.
“I am truly not in favour of taking the vaccine personally. I know that is not your stance, because you already have your stance, but this is my stance. It is proven and when you check social media you seeing it right in front of your face that when you take vaccine you still have to wear a mask.”
He asked: “So why do you still have to wear a mask even when you are vaccinated?”
Expanding further he said, “They had a cruise ship a couple months ago, and everybody was fully vaccinated, and everybody caught the COVID virus again,” so he concluded that “taking the vaccine have consequences” to which Prime Minister Gonsalves asked “what are the consequences?”
The Port employee responded “they can still get sick.”
Interjecting, Gonsalves pointed out: “Not everybody, the point is my brother you are always going to find cases where somebody who has taken the vaccine and gotten Covid, but the chances of you getting it if you are vaccinated and then falling sick, those chances are slim. And if you get it and you are vaccinated, you are unlikely to die from it.”
He added: “The point about it is this, you take the vaccine. The vaccine is not 100 per cent fool proof, but if it is 90 per cent fool proof, would you not like to have 90 per cent protection? You do not get the vaccine comrade, you are part of a community. You do not live by yourself.”
Not budging from his position, the Port employee reiterated, “…As I said you have your stance on this and you will not waiver from it, and I know that. But I am telling you personally I do not feel like taking the vaccine.”
The Prime Minister has continually advocated for persons to be vaccinated noting that it is the best tool in the arsenal against the COVID-19 virus which has already killed more than 70 persons locally and millions around the world.
And while he insists that his desire is to see people vaccinated and not lose their jobs, Gonsalves also has stated that his administration is resolute in the decision it has taken to require that certain categories of workers of the state machinery, including at statutory corporations, be vaccinated.