Hush yuh mout, nah, boy!

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

WHAT'S cloaked in darkness will always come to light. Health authorities in TT can't escape the appearance of having suppressed information about covid19. This misguided data curation came from a place of paternal authoritarianism and TT-style incompetence.

Many of us have been asking one question for months. It was answered by epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds only recently: 56 fully vaccinated people succumbed to covid19. Some, he indicated, had pre-existing conditions. Others didn't know they had underlying ailments.

With the fatality count post-vaccine arrival standing at 1,437, the number of fully vaccinated victims might seem small compared to the whole. It isn't small, however, to relatives and friends who lost loved ones – people convinced that, once they took the vaccine, life could go back to normal.

Health authorities took a painfully long time to acknowledge the emergence of breakthrough cases. It took them even longer to admit fully vaccinated people were also dying from covid19.

How many vaccinated people would have minimised their risk of exposure if they knew the proportion of vaccinated people who were becoming gravely ill? How many lives could have been saved if the Government had been upfront about deadly breakthrough cases?

Back in August, after getting my second Sinopharm dose, I said publicly we need to discuss the efficacy of this particular vaccine, breakthrough cases and the possibility of needing booster shots. I also emphasised that public messaging should tell people to stick with their precautionary measures even after getting vaccinated. Too much is unknown about this virus; how it will affect us individually even if inoculated.

Moreover, there were compelling reports about low efficacy in the Sinopharm vaccine. I took it, but I've stayed full fanatic on all my safety habits. I sanitise, double-mask and avoid crowds and socialising. When I voiced my concerns online, I was slated mercilessly.

"Hush yuh mout, nah, boy! You will discourage others from taking the vaccine."

Exactly as feared, we have a worrying number of breakthrough cases and deaths among fully vaccinated citizens. The World Health Organization has since recommended a third primary shot (not a booster, mind you) for Sinopharm recipients.

I believe the health authorities, in an egregious error of judgment, abdicated their responsibility to the population, particularly those who came forward to get vaccinated. Perhaps they felt if breakthrough cases and deaths among the vaccinated were openly mooted, it would rev up anti-vaxxers and further weaken vaccine uptake.

This, of course, turned out to be a foolhardy mindset because TT's vaccination rate remains low.

The antidote to misinformation and scepticism is openness, transparency and more information. At any rate, people dead set against vaccines don't need additional convincing and aren't likely to be converted any time soon.

The result of this cherry-picking of data is that citizens weren't fed an accurate picture. Fully vaccinated people were insufficiently educated about the need to maintain safety protocols until the rate of infection is appreciably slowed.

Moreover, when authorities are parsimonious with the truth, they breed further distrust. People start to think they can't believe anything you say, even if you name doctah. Rumour becomes reality in the absence of honesty.

Cases are on the rise because people have returned to normal routines. Many who are vaccinated are taking risks they shouldn't, believing they're covid19-proof.

TT's messaging was "vaccinate to operate." That might have been fine at some point, but what we know about the virus continues to evolve. Our messaging and strategies, which were weak from day one, haven't kept pace with new knowledge of the way the virus works.

There is no excuse for this failure. TT has had the benefit of seeing and learning from pandemic trends unfolding in other countries long before they were mirrored here.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: no single tactic will ensure our safety. Vaccines are just part of what should be a phalanx of protective measures.

TT needs more widespread education about the delta variant. The Ministry of Health should run a parallel campaign encouraging people to adopt healthier dietary and lifestyle choices to shore up their immune systems.

Testing and tracing after two years of the pandemic remain poor. This must be improved immediately.

People should be advised to continue limiting their social circles for a little while longer.

Doing business online, both in the private and public sectors, should be encouraged and expanded.

Other countries are also enduring breakthrough cases. The difference is they're willing to have frank public discussions.

In TT, it's, "Hush yuh mout, nah, boy!"


"Hush yuh mout, nah, boy!"

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