EVENTS this week suggested a tale of two TTs.
One in which Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says covid19 vaccine uptake is high and credible people are drowning out sceptics. Another in which businessmen like Jeffrey Azar report roughly 90 per cent of their workers are refusing to get jabbed.
Which is it?
The long lines at recent drives, as well as the overwhelming response to the State’s vaccination programme by the elderly a few weeks ago, suggest we have come a long way from the early days when the vaccines were new and understanding of the rationale for them poorly appreciated.
That President Paula-Mae Weekes has mandated only vaccinated officers should be part of her security detail, as reported by this newspaper, illuminates well the need for balancing individual rights with public health considerations. Ms Weekes is not only concerned about her own welfare but also that of her 92-year-old mother, with whom she lives.
It is one thing to assert one’s right to bodily integrity and to determine one’s medical treatment. It is another thing, in so asserting, to put other people in peril by potentially acting as a carrier of a highly infectious and potentially fatal or life-changing disease. It’s not right to make Peter pay for Paul.
The majority of the population is routinely vaccinated without any choice in the matter. Babies, soon after being born, must be jabbed, and schoolchildren inoculated in order to get a place in schools.
This has been the case for decades. As a result, tremendous strides have been made. The incidence of some diseases is now so negligible it is easy to forget that it is mass vaccination and mass vaccination alone that led to their near-disappearance.
Mr Deyalsingh sees his battle as being one of combating conspiracy theories.
But the issue is wider. Clearly, there is also little appreciation of the nuances of human rights, in a culture that prides itself on its democratic principles.
Such nuances are frequently lost on the playing field of social media.
But politicians themselves, when they regularly bend the truth and evade scrutiny, also encourage warped discourse.
On Tuesday, as the country crossed the grim milestone of 1,000 deaths, the Health Minister made an audacious statement.
“What we knew at the time is what we did at the time,” he said. “There is nothing that we have said that we could have done better or done differently.”
This unrepentant declaration is quite simply incompatible with Mr Deyalsingh’s own apology to the people of TT mere weeks ago for missteps in the vaccination programme that inconvenienced and possibly endangered large numbers of vulnerable people.
It suggests the minister might have one thing in common with those who indulge in conspiracy theories: an inability to confront harsh truths.