OVER the past few weeks there has been an evident shift in the public posture on vaccination. Not because we have been able to acquire more doses of the Sputnik V second dose, that we ran short of, but because stricter COVID-19 guidelines for unvaccinated people especially, seem imminent.
By the time you read this column, if all goes as planned, I should be recovering from screaming at the top of my lungs for hours during the T20 international cricket match between West Indies (#rally) and Pakistan, at the National Stadium on Saturday. Cricket, as we well know, has the ability to bring us together to celebrate our victories or express our frustration at the men in maroon.
During these matches, however, what will bring us together-after we have spent so much time social distancing and all-is the simple fact that some of us are fully vaccinated and protected from the more severe and life-threatening symptoms associated with the deadly disease, COVID-19.
That’s right. If you didn’t know, only those people who are fully vaccinated would be able to attend the games and witness the return of international cricket to Guyana after nearly two years. And yes, that means that if you aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you are certainly missing out on seeing our country boy Shimron Hetmyer in action against the world-class Babar Azam.
Beyond just missing out on cricket, there are other emerging considerations for unvaccinated people. For example, Education Minister Priya Manickchand said that the resumption of physical classes come September is contingent upon widespread vaccination.
Importantly, too, the local private sector has been advocating stricter measures for those people who remain unvaccinated. One existing suggestion, proposed to none other than President Dr. Irfaan Ali himself, is that unvaccinated employees should produce a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the gold standard COVID-19 tests,to be allowed into their workplaces and other entities. The cost for those tests will be borne by the employee.
For a bit of context on this, a PCR test costs between $15,000 to $25,000- depending on which private entity you visit. Tests from the Ministry of Health are free, but are accessible only if you show signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And so, it is quite evident that unvaccinated people will chalk up quite the bill getting these tests weekly.
Already, Giftland OfficeMax has issued a press statement indicating that unvaccinated employees will have to produce this test result at the beginning of each week before they are able to resume their duties.
Now, in all fairness, I recognise that taking a vaccine-no matter how life-saving it can be-is still a personal choice and, at least as of now, that choice is accepted and respected. Yet, when we think about the sheer devastations (infections, deaths, and restrictions) caused over the past 16 months or so, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, getting vaccinated seems to be a no-brainer.
For me, taking a vaccine amounts to protecting yourself and your loved ones and really, if that alone is not enough to convince any person to be vaccinated, then I don’t know how else to underscore the importance of these vaccines.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that the vaccines are some magic “jab” that will prevent individuals from becoming infected and repelling the ‘COVID’ outright, but I am saying that they are proven to be able to stop people from ending up in the COVID hospital, fighting for dear life on a ventilator and a tube down one’s throat.
As I wind down, I read a very controversial statement recently where a public official stated that people who do not take the COVID-19 vaccines available to them should not be eligible for the education cash grants and house lots currently being distributed. Though a fervent advocate for vaccination myself, I believe, however, that we have to intensify our efforts geared at dismantling some of the myths and concerns that stymie vaccine acceptance and work to instill a sense of trust in Guyanese about these vaccines. I personally prefer engagement and painstaking dialogue to more seriously coercive actions.
Unlike scores of other countries, we have vaccines readily available and I genuinely believe that we should get vaccinated. It shouldn’t take the allure of cricket or any other sporting/ social event or the stress and expense of getting weekly tests to convince you to get vaccinated if you are without a valid reason to get the “jabs.” So please, get vaccinated, and let’s protect ourselves.
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