By Shermain Bique-Charles
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said failure to reach herd immunity within the next few weeks could have dire consequences for the country, to include the potential collapse of public finances and a third and more lethal wave of Covid-19.
Browne who is also the Minister of Finance, made the pronouncement on Tuesday during the ceremony to mark the official renaming of the country’s main public hospital.
He urged the tens of thousands of residents who have not yet received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to do so, describing it is a moral, social and economic imperative.
“Iwant you to understand the consequences of us not achieving herd immunity. I want you to understand that if the vaccination process continues to move at a slow pace, and within the next several weeks we don’t achieve herd immunity, that we will be exposing this country to perhaps a third and more deadly wave of Covid, one that would result in possible lockdowns, more deaths and more hospitalisations,” Browne said starkly.
He also issued a plea for each vaccinated person to convince at least one hesitant person to get inoculated.
That, he said, would help the country achieve 60 percent immunity, which would be well on the way to hitting the government’s 70 percent target.
Failure to vaccinate the nation, the PM warned, will see tourists going elsewhere, which would further devastate the country’s economy.
Browne added that with borrowing options also dried up, the government faces a momentous task to keep revenues afloat.
“The government is struggling to meet its obligations, and the more the situation protracts, not only will you have significant hospitalisations and deaths, there will come a time when the government will not be able to meet certain obligations, including the payment of salaries and wages,” he said.
“And for some reason our people seem not to be connecting the dots. On a daily basis I get a report of the revenue intake and I can tell you May will be the worst for this year,” he said.
Browne made a final appeal to Antiguans and Barbudans to take heed from their overseas counterparts who he claimed are showing greater confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines.
“Don’t we care about ourselves? Don’t we care about our own health? The health of our children? Of our neighbours? Do we not care about the viability of this country? So, taking a vaccine is exclusively your personal decision? You have no obligation to the wider society? No obligation to your children’s children? What is it about us as indigenous Antiguans and Barbudans that makes us so stubborn that we are literally putting our own development, our health and certainly the health of our loved ones at risk?” Browne queried.
To date, just under 32,000 people in Antigua and Barbuda have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while over 2,500 have had the second dose.
Health workers, members of the diplomatic corps, parliamentarians, senators, pharmacists and clergy people are among those to have received the second jab.
Members of the public can also continue to get theirs. With the public holiday coming up on Monday, those scheduled to receive the second dose on that day are advised to go to any of the public vaccination sites this week.
They are the polyclinics in Villa and Glanvilles, the Precision Centre in Paynters and the Multipurpose Centre in Perry Bay. People should take along their vaccination cards and a government-issued ID.