Most rational people in this patient little country of ours, after a panicky beginning, have been dealing pretty well with the covid19 pandemic. Apart from the gross upsurge in domestic violence, we have kept our cool, been mostly wearing our masks – even if not always correctly – practising social distancing – some better than others, and following the general guidelines, so much so that the gang killings fell in number.
We have been content with the government’s handling of the situation in general terms, although the plight of the many citizens left stranded abroad for most of 2020 caused a lot of dismay among the believers.
The Opposition tried, at election time, to flag the fact that almost no testing had been done, but got little traction. Few people wanted to face such realities, preferring to leave it up to the capable Chief Medical Officer and the confident Minister of Health to lead us to the promised land.
I have been giving copious thanks that I got back to TT on the eve of the lockdown, having read the dismal signs accurately and that I am able to deal with all my many personal and professional responsibilities.
I pinch myself every day that I live in a beautiful land with warm air, without famine and war, so that any lockdown has got to be better than it is for a lot of the people living in other climes. Only the idiocy of so much of what we do and how we operate, our lack of desire to fix the place, the corruption and most of all the threat of an earthquake upset my equilibrium.
That was until last week, when I learned that TT will receive only 100,000-120,000 vaccinations and only a fraction of us will be vaccinated by the end of 2022.
That sounds like a complete disaster to me and I see it as a distinct threat to whatever future life I had hoped to enjoy. I would go further and say that all the terrible confusion around the production and distribution of the vaccine has been the most disturbing element of the last year.
We had been buoyed up by the coming together of communities and brigades of people everywhere who rallied to the cause of being their neighbour's keeper. We shared the grief of the millions who lost their loved ones, and the medical staff who gave their lives to the fight against the deadly virus.
Now we have been let down by our leaders, who are engaged in a bunfight to appropriate the vaccine and leave their neighbours to suffer.
Firstly, there was Israel allegedly paying above the going rate to secure US vaccines and then boasting about vaccinating more of its citizens than anyone else. The EU showed its rottweiler teeth by threatening Britain over supposedly compromising the supply of a UK vaccine to the continent. The Chinese were slow to share how they controlled the virus at home, but then moved quickly to provide their vaccine to the countries where they have been gaining influence. The Canadians exceeded their needs several times over when securing vaccines and the former US president tried to make political capital out of a non-existent vaccine roll out programme. The Russians have now come up with a highly effective version of their own vaccine but it is left to be seen who buys it from them.
A huge degree of mistrust about which country’s vaccines are safe to take is as much about their efficacy as about whether they could be laced with some sinister, harmful substance.
It’s a dystopian picture of the world divided between those who have the vaccine and those who do not.
The big question is, how could we ever return to any normality if some populations won’t be vaccinated for the next ten years or longer, at current rollout estimates? Governments are not being transparent about the vaccine crisis, and we deserve to know everything, because we are not anywhere near the end of the pandemic and we need to be prepared.
To start, I would like our Minister of Health to say when he expects the entire consenting population to be vaccinated. He cannot control the production or availability, but he needs to let us know the impact of the long, partial rollout of TT’s vaccination programme and how the health authorities would cope with a mutating virus and such inadequate supplies.
If we need two vaccines each, we should have at least two million vaccines to render us sufficiently non-contagious. What is the plan?
The Covax allocation is totally inadequate, and we must press for Caricom to exercise some muscle in securing the vaccine outside of Covax. Our bloc has a seat on the UN Security Council. That should count for something.
It is bearable to live with the promise of an end to the loss of freedoms, but not at all if we are staring into an abyss and are powerless to defend ourselves.