Leadership in times of ANTI-VAXXISM

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Some of the arguments, tenets, conspiracies and suppositions being proffered by the philosophy of anti-vaxxism are gratuitous, fleeting, spurious and unmeritorious. Despite this, good leadership demands that their views and concerns are carefully and selectively woven into policy. The decision not to be vaccinated by those who medically can is not an individual decision, it is a communal decision. Hence, management at the governmental level cannot construct policy solely based on individual rights, it has to be done from public health and communal interest standpoint. Conversely, governmental leadership demands the acceptance that you do not rule for one section of the vaccine divide. There is a need to strike a delicate balance. Vaccination mandates in this neck of the woods which proceed from the art of good command must include nuances and caveats that allow a safe pocket for those who may not wish to subscribe to the stringent measures. Of course, if you proceed from the principles of handling power via Marxism-Leninism and totalitarianism, all of this goes over your head. Leaders who have an interest in staking a claim to democracy and having a legacy that is accentuated by tutelage through persuasion and influence and not coercion may find this submission appealing. Added to this, it is folly to take a heavy-handed approach to the implementation of vaccine mandates in this age of information and the supreme awareness of human rights.

A cursory glance at the history of vaccine hesitancy is required by anyone who wishes to craft humane policies that reflect a holistic understanding of the issue. It is not new. It has a 200 years record which can be perused by the simplest of internet searches. When Dr. Jenner faced resistance to the smallpox vaccine as early as 1790, the literature suggests that this was the beginning of a culture of vaccine hesitancy. Despite the destructive effects of smallpox, some resisted being jabbed. This was due to a conspiracy theory that ridiculously suggested that those who received the shot, would turn into cows. This phenomenon manifested during the polio outbreak in the 1950s. There was the onset of the infamous documentary, ‘DPT: Vaccine Roulette’ which can be considered the magnus opus on vaccine skepticism. It documented the side effects of the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) vaccine and as a consequence, almost buried the vaccine industry. This misinformation onslaught was coupled with the work of Andrew Wakefield who claimed measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused inflammatory bowel disease and autism. What lessons are being offered here by this history? For me, it is saying clearly: this phenomenon is not new and therefore it behooves those who enjoy power over the people, to familiarize themselves with these facts. Once you are cognizant of this, it may lead to the acceptance that regardless of what measures you devise to save lives, there will be resistance. Good leadership demands that your decisions consider those who resist, even in times of life and death.

In consideration of what has been mentioned thus far, there is no doubt: it is not the best time to be a government leader. The reason being, the world’s problems have multiplied tenfold. At the top of the pile is the onset of Covid-19. Make no mistake, this leadership challenge is unprecedented. Despite the herculean task, some great exemplars of good authority vis-à-vis the anti-vaxxism movement have prevailed. Exhibit A: Prime Minister Mia Motley of Barbados. What Her Excellency has done thus far is the chair of PM should be documented and placed on file for a point of reference for leadership studies. Having recognized that there was a need to vaccinate citizens, the Senior Counsel consulted her Attorney-General for legal guidance. Having accepted that his office represented an interested party, the AG procured a private legal opinion. After careful consideration, Leslie f. Haynes, Q.C submitted, in part, that mandatory vaccination may not be consistent with the principles outlined in the Constitution of Barbados. As a consequence, the Prime Minister opted for voluntary vaccination and by extension, chose leadership by persuasion and not coercion. Added to this great example, are those governments which devised humane policies which consider those who are not in the pro-vaccination crowd. The United States of America and President Joseph Biden come to mind. Even though some have categorized Biden as a mandatory vaccination zealot, this assertion is immediately rendered less credible when one closely examines what he has advanced. The proposal for vaccination put forward in his Executive Order on September 13 included but not limited to: mandatory free testing, only WHO-approved vaccines, employers were mandated to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects with monetary consequences. Hold for a moment. The favorite pavlovian reaction to this policy-making in this neck of the woods is –Guyana is not America, we are not blessed with the resources to mimic the United States in this regard. That argument is reasonable insofar as the issue of fiscal non-parity is concerned but it is found wanting on the most basic standards of good leadership. Those standards cannot be negotiated regardless of fiscal circumstances. Biden’s decision to offer free testing can be copied here. His commitment to ensuring humane policies within the workplace can be completed here. This is good leadership in times of anti-vaxxism.

Character is policy and policy is character. This sums up the great man theory which places heavy emphasis on the personal traits of those in charge. The fallouts of Covid-19 cannot wash away the gravamen of the personality who occupies the chair. Therefore, if the approach to the very noble need to vaccinate is inhumane, it is reasonable to conclude that those from whence this scheme originated, are unsympathetic. It is difficult, if not impossible, to advance the view that you are magnanimous while advancing uncaring methods to solve this crisis. It is elementary knowledge: Guyana is unique with its strange sociology and behaviorism of its people. Due to this reality, skillful leadership cannot take a break or a breather. If you don’t get it right here, it invariably ends in disaster. This heterogeneous experience screams for sophisticated management.


Leadership during the times of anti-vaxxism is not for the faint at heart.

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