WHAT EXACTLY is the position of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) on covid19 vaccination?
PDP leader Watson Duke says he is all for vaccines, but will only take one that has been “legitimised, approved or licensed.”
Of the various vaccines now available, Mr Duke said in an interview on Sunday: “A vaccine authorised for emergency use is simply a vaccine that must be used in emergency circumstances.”
But are we not in an emergency? Does a global pandemic that has already killed over four million people not count as an emergency? The PDP leader’s position does not only set a bad example (the interview was carried live on his Facebook page, which has almost 16,000 followers).
It also diverges from the advice of his own deputy leader Dr Faith BYisrael, who is fully vaccinated and who has encouraged Tobagonians to get informed about vaccination.
Asked to comment in turn on Mr Duke’s comments, she said the party’s position is to provide people with information to give each individual the option to choose what is best for them.
“Mr Duke is no different,” she said.
But Mr Duke is different. He is in the leader of a political party vying to govern Tobago at a time when vaccination hesitancy is arguably the single largest threat to the country’s efforts to bring this pandemic under control.
While the stance of the PDP leader – also a key trade unionist – is being advanced as one of individual choice, Mr Duke is actually toeing a line.
Trade unionists have all declined to back Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s call for “a collective sense of vision and unity of purpose” with regard to the State’s vaccination efforts.
For all the talk, too, of individual choice, there has been very little consideration of the people who have no choice.
There are thousands of pregnant women, children and others who, for medical reasons, cannot or are not being permitted to take a vaccine. Even those who are vaccinated are not 100 per cent immune to infection, since no vaccine is perfect.
In order for everyone to be protected, countries must achieve herd immunity by getting all those who can take the vaccine to do so.
More than one-eighth of the world’s population has, to date, already taken a vaccine without incident.
Yet Mr Duke imagines emergency-use vaccines are somehow suspect or deficient.
What is really suspect is ignoring the successful and rigorous scientific trials these drugs have already been subjected to, as well as our responsibility, especially to the vulnerable members of our population, but to each other in general.
Not only will the vulnerable be left defenceless against covid19, they will ultimately find themselves unable to fend against the deadliest thing of all: the selfishness of some members of the population.