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At 10:00 am yesterday, a new day dawned here in our fair State. That was the moment that our frontline health care workers began receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. That dose came from a batch of 5,000, graciously gifted to us by the government and people of Dominica. We are thankful. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is a two-dose regimen, and we understand that the second dose will be administered in a few weeks. Scientists have suggested that the longer the space between the first and second dose, the greater the efficacy of the vaccine.

            Another good thing about the AstraZeneca vaccine is that it is not as costly as the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, and it does not have to be stored at sub-freezing temperatures. We will be getting another 20,000 doses by way of the COVAX facility, and a further 40,000 from the government and people of India. Again, we wish to express our gratitude. Moreover, we are quite pleased to note that our Prime Minister (PM) will be soliciting another 100,000 doses from the Indian government. All well and good.

               To her great credit, our Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rhonda Sealey Thomas, courageously stepped forward to take the very first dose under the government’s public vaccination programme. In brief remarks, her voice showing some emotion, she said that, “It’s been a very long road; it’s been very challenging . . .” Indeed, it has. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the CMO is pointing us toward that light. By stepping forward to take the first jab, she is leading by example, displaying absolute confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, never mind the cynical naysayers and ‘Doubting Thomases.” (No pun intended. Those Thomases of little faith  are certainly no relation to our CMO) (Smile). Ah, leadership is a helluva thing! One’s position in a high place can encourage and reassure, and that sacred charge as a leader ought to be handled with a solemn sense of responsibility and devotion to duty.

               With that in mind, it would have been an even more poignant and inspiring moment, a rallying call, if you will, had our good Prime Minister or the equally good Minister of Health, been seen on national television, giving great words of encouragement to the people, as did Dr Duncan, the Medical Director of Mount St.John’s Medical Centre, Nurse Coates, the head of the vaccination programme, and our CMO, at the historic televised event yesterday morning. Oh yes, what a moment it would have been! The sight of our PM and the Minister of Health rolling up their sleeves and taking the jab would have been one for the history books. But . . . . . . . . . .

               The story is told of Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, and the one associated with the decline of the French monarchy, who was best known for her elitism and insensitivity to the plight of the poor suffering people in the kingdom. It is said that when she was told that the people were starving, and could not buy bread, she callously remarked, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or translated, “Let them eat cake.” Of course, she knew that they could not afford the expensive cake, a delightful confection enjoyed only by the monarchy and the very wealthy elites – the one percenters. But she did not give a crumb. Indeed, she was quite mocking and flippant in her response to the grinding poverty that was gripping the poor. Sigh! Oh how history repeats itself! Some history schoolchildren have recently taken to saying, “Qu’ils mangent de la Moderna.” Ouch! But not to worry, folks. Que sera, sera! (Whatever will be, will be)

            Suffice it to say, our Astrazeneca vaccine is safe and efficacious. We have been doing the research, perusing the literature, and listening to the best minds on the subject. They have all endorsed the AstraZeneca vaccine, as have PAHO and WHO. The local medical fraternity has also assured us as to its safety and effectiveness. For example, in a conversation on the subject on national television a few nights ago, Dr Joseph John gave AstraZeneca his stamp of approval, as have Dr Delrose Christian, Dr Courtney Lewis, Dr Dwayne Baba Thwaites, Dr George Roberts, Dr James Knight, et al, in their pronouncements on the matter. We really need no other argument.

             This writer will be taking the vaccine when it becomes available. For whatever it’s worth, this writer will be recording the moment live on VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, if that can be arranged. A number of our colleagues here at NEWSCO will be doing likewise. With one proviso. We will not be seeking the services of a certain Dr Beckles, he of Lord Canary infamy. If you recall, Lord Canary was quite alarmed at the good doctor’s methods and he vehemently exclaimed, as do we, “His injection may be good, but not for us, Sir / He could keep it and give it to . . . .” (Wink, wink)

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