By Orville Williams
Despite the school of thought that suggests the recently-implemented vaccine mandates were unavoidable, given the rising Covid infections in the country, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has been accused of “digging himself into a hole” with the decision, when a different route could have been taken.
That latest criticism comes from United Progressive Party (UPP) spokesperson on trade, consumer affairs and urban development, Pearl Quinn-Williams.
As Covid infections continued to rise dramatically, threatening the health of the population and the prospects of a continued economic resurgence, the government made the most significant move yet in its Covid management, requiring all public sector workers to be vaccinated in order to continue working.
There is pushback to that move coming from all areas since the announcement and the disgruntlement has soured the relationship between the government and virtually all of the labour unions that represent workers across the country.
Quinn-Williams insists though, that all of this could have been avoided, accusing the PM of failing all the way back at the starting line.
“He put himself in the position that he is in. It didn’t have to get to this, had the government stepped back, allowed the health professionals to take the lead and be the face of the education campaign.
“[Things would be different] had they not disrespected the eminent doctors and nurses and cursed and threatened people, had he not surreptitiously taken a different vaccine [referring to PM Browne’s disclosure that he had received the Moderna Covid jab] and undermined trust in the vaccination programme.
“If not for these things we would have been much closer, I believe, to herd immunity and we would not have had that pushback,” she said.
As far as the government is concerned, the pushback to these extreme measures is coming from a relative minority of people, including those who may be ‘antivaxxers’, anti-establishment and otherwise opposed to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP).
The majority, it believes, is pro-vaccination and supporting the mandates as a means of urgently getting out of the ‘cloud’ of Covid and back to a sense of normalcy.
Regardless of what the truth may be, the more important reality is that active Covid infections now number over 1,000 and more vaccinations are needed to reduce the spread of the virus.
This, Quinn-Williams agrees with, and she has suggested a strategy that she believes could help get the vaccination figures where they need to be.
“I, for one, will be spearheading a campaign called ‘Each One Win One’ and this is how it will work. We currently have around 47,000 persons who are [either fully or partially] vaccinated. If we subtract 15,000 – for children and elderly persons – we are left with 32,000.
“If every one of those persons commits to persuading at least one person [to get vaccinated] by the end of the year, we could easily have another 32,000 persons vaccinated and as the number of vaccinated persons grows, each new person then commits to persuading one more unvaccinated person,” she explained.
Reiterating the importance of such a strategy, she encouraged the government to consider utilising it for the greater good, and the wider public to adopt a sense of national pride.
“If ever there was a time for us as a people to live the words of the national anthem – ‘each endeavouring, all achieving’ – it’s now. The onus is on each of us to be true patriots.
“I don’t have any copyrights on [the strategy], so [the government] can do it too,” she added.