THERE HAS been much uncertainty over the arrival of covid19 vaccines on these shores, so it was good finally to get facts at a Ministry of Health ceremony on Wednesday. Or was it?
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said a first batch of 2,000 was donated by India. He chastised the media for reporting that Barbados had donated it.
“No, no, no,” Mr Deyalsingh scolded. “The government of India made a gift to the region, using Barbados as a central depository.” Within hours, the minister was forced to correct himself. The batch had come from Barbados after all.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – who committed a gaffe of her own in 2010 when she told Caricom this country was not an ATM – on Thursday called for Mr Deyalsingh’s head.
In reply, the Prime Minister said, in a social media post, that this was mischief and that “our national programme remains on track.”
But what is that programme?
Why did Dr Rowley speak of global “logistical difficulties” and concerns about hoarding and price-gouging when addressing the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday?
Trust was, ironically, the theme at Wednesday’s event, where two healthcare workers received vaccines. They did their best to urge citizens to have faith. They were said to be the first people in the country to receive the jabs.
Everyone else, it seems, will have to wait much longer.
The Prime Minister has said he will take his vaccine when another batch arrives “next month.”
Mr Deyalsingh has lectured on the dangers of the “anti-vaxxer” movement, as though vaccines would soon be upon us in large numbers. In fact, he once boasted the Government had been preparing to acquire vaccines long before such vaccines were even announced to the world.
We have yet to see evidence of these efforts. To date, the many figures bandied about suggest we are set to fall well below the herd immunity benchmark.
A government that said some time ago that doses to cover 461,000 people had been ordered instead this week celebrated doses to cover 1,000 which arrived from Barbados purely through luck and the generosity of that country.
There may be more to come from India as a gift to Caricom, although the Prime Minister – the chairman of Caricom – has been reported as saying he knows nothing about that.
The Foreign Affairs Minister has spoken about “working to secure the purchase” of 250,000 doses (ie enough for 125,000 people). What does that mean?
What of the 100,000-120,000 doses expected to arrive via the Covax scheme? Is that batch on its way? Is that where the PM’s jab will come from?
The strategy of keeping us safe mainly by relying on closed borders has worked well so far. But now the country must move on to the next stage. We need facts, not promises and good intentions.