I call on the Government to accelerate policies to make vaccination mandatory

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Dear Editor,

Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinions regarding some aspects of the COVID-19 situation.

First, I applaud government’s most recent initiatives in the effort to encourage vaccinations. My position is premised on the conviction that Guyanese have reached and passed the psychological tipping point; those who want to be vaccinated are already vaccinated, therefore, those who remain unprotected by a vaccine are persons who do not intend to protect themselves and others by becoming vaccinated. Considering the fact that vaccination is the cornerstone of the multi-faceted effort to end this international public-health crisis, it follows that pressure must necessarily be brought to bear on such persons in order to protect everyone. I note that United States President Biden has, last Thursday, issued wide ranging vaccination mandates as part of a six-point plan to combat the pandemic; I support the plan. I note, too, that during his speech in which he outlined the plan, President Biden said, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal [to be vaccinated] has cost all of us.” I conclude this point by stating my belief that — considering the medical, social, psychological, and political realities with regard to the pandemic — vaccination and other mitigation measures will inevitably become internationally mandatory, as such, I call on the Government of Guyana to accelerate policies and initiatives toward that end.

Second, while policymakers may welcome public applause, they must also accept criticism and heed advice and suggestions relating to their shortcomings. One such shortcoming is the failure of government to until recently,  mandate vaccines for healthcare professionals and other persons who work in healthcare institutions. After all, COVID-19 is a contagious disease, sick people go to healthcare institutions for help, the people who work in such places are most exposed to the disease, and most likely to spread it. Therefore, it should have been obvious to the authorities that such workers should be vaccinated first; that was not done. As a result of this failure, we now have a situation that could have been avoided in the first place.

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Thirdly, It is clear that the issue of vaccination has become politicised. The inevitability of this development should have been equally obvious; all the prerequisites were present and all the signs were there. A deadly pandemic had started; mandates would be inevitable; the political opposition was, arguably, weak and fragmented, and would seek — just as any political force would do — to galvanise support by any means. And that is exactly what happened; vaccination became a political football.

In conclusion, permit me to make a few suggestions. First, government, which includes the parliamentary opposition, must remain on the trajectory of enforcement of all containment and mitigation measures as prescribed by scientists and other experts. At this point, that will require collaboration and cooperation across the political spectrum. With that in mind, I call on President Ali to begin unconditional dialogue with the parliamentary opposition, and start consultations with other stakeholders. The time for grandstanding and political posturing is long gone; the lives of Guyanese depend on political cooperation; all politicians need to internalise that fact. Second, healthcare workers and other persons who are at high risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 should be vaccinated. Third, authorities must acknowledge that stopping COVID-19 is the priority, and takes precedence over all other considerations including economic interests, after all, sick or dead people cannot contribute to economic development, in fact, quite the contrary. I close by encouraging everyone to adhere to the measures prescribed by the experts including distancing, hand-washing, masking, avoidance of unnecessary travel, and vaccination.

Sincerely,
Mark DaCosta



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