There was a recent call by Prime Minister Gaston Browne for a “political ceasefire” among the country’s two main political parties in an effort for them to coalesce on the issue of the current COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effect on every aspect on national life: the economy, culture, religion, sports – you name it.
While we fully support the prime minister’s call and we see much merit in such an undertaking, we have decided to issue a call of our own; however, we are framing ours as a call to arms.
This call is in support of the national vaccination programme that is now ongoing. So far, more than five hundred persons have been vaccinated under the programme rolled out one week ago. That number includes fifty-five (55) from our sister island Barbuda. In a show of leadership, the island’s parliamentary representative, Trevor Walker, and members of the Barbuda Council were among that number.
With the acrimony that too often attends much of the relationship between the Council and the Central Government, it is a breath of fresh air to see both the Council and the government in lock-step on an issue as critical as the vaccination exercise. It is also heartwarming to hear that there is a general desire on the part of most Barbudans to get vaccinated. In the words of the Council Secretary Paul Nedd, “We have to fight this virus together!”
The entire Cabinet, members of Parliament, top sports personalities, the military and other security forces, as well as many frontline healthcare workers have also participated in the exercise and have been vaccinated. Former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and UPP Political Leader Harold Lovell have agreed to be vaccinated and are to do so this week.
Unfortunately, there are many who have seized on people’s innate fears and suspicions and have been using these to place a wedge between those who have been hesitant about being vaccinated and those who fully agree to get their shots.
Those who are actively engaged in dissuading people from being vaccinated have been scurrying all corners of the internet, searching for information that would support their points of view; unfortunately, there is much in the way of conspiracy theories to be found.
Armed with what they believe is “irrefutable evidence,” these individuals then use the many social media platforms to disseminate what is essentially misinformation. It has led to much confusion in the society about the safety and/or efficacy of the vaccines.
Then there are those who get caught up with which is the ‘best’ brand of the available vaccines. In the words of the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre Medical Director, Dr. Albert Duncan, “The ‘best’ vaccine is the one available to you now!”
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization for use throughout the world. It is the vaccine now widely in use in the United Kingdom. It has been proven to be highly effective against COVID-19.
Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are also highly effective. However, these vaccines are not available to us at the moment and may not be so for several months to come. Should the country wait? Can we afford any more deaths or hospitalizations, especially when another highly effective vaccine is readily available? We think not!
There are two bits of information that all of us in Antigua and Barbuda should take to heart and should do so now. Firstly, there are fourteen people who have died from COVID-19-related illnesses in Antigua and Barbuda, two of which were imported. Secondly, the research throughout the entire globe is that no one who has received any of the anti-COVID vaccines now available has either been hospitalized or has died! No one!
COVID-19 deaths have been described as some of the worst ways to die; it is a lonely way to spend one’s final hours, minutes on earth. Even the handling of the bodies is done differently and burial is often within days of dying. It has been described as an awful experience for family members.
This call to arms is one sure way of avoiding this terrible fate.
Get vaccinated as soon as possible!
Getting vaccinated means that you are ‘arming’ yourself against this highly-contagious and deadly virus.
Do it for your family, friends and for the country!