Tobago Chamber: Gov’t must consider mandatory COVID-19 vaccination
The time has come for Government to consider going the route of mandatory vaccination to continue easing restrictions to allow closed business sectors to reopen.
This, from Chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George who said the quickest way for the country to get back to a state of normalcy is to “legislate to vaccinate” against COVID-19.
George, in a video message, said T&T’s COVID-19 vaccination rate remains too low and will present the risk of new waves of infection if other sectors are reopened.
He said the move to reopen the retail sector next Monday is a positive step, but the low rate of vaccination continues to be a cause of concern for the Tobago Chamber.
George said the reopening of more sectors, including a return to physical classes, will see more movement of people and the potential for a superspreader event.
He said: “You’re thinking of reopening schools in September. Schools provide the greatest scenario for mass spread of the COVID-19 virus. Having schools reopen fully and have all students back in school by October that’s a superspreader event because hundreds of thousands of citizens are going to be there on a daily basis mixing with each other.”
He said that in such instances it would be impossible to manage that level of risk if so many people remain unvaccinated.
George noted that mandatory vaccination isn’t as novel an idea as many may think as vaccination against certain diseases is mandatory for children to attend school.
He said: “Let’s not go into histrionics and get hysterical and tear our hair out over the thought of mandatory vaccinations because we already have it as part of our law here in Trinidad and Tobago, and we’ve all been subjected to it as children. Hence, we don’t have smallpox, yellow fever, polio or any of the other diseases which ravaged countries all around the world.”
George noted that a statement from US immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci pointed to unvaccinated people posing the “greatest threat to public health” by contracting and spreading the virus.
He said from a local perspective, T&T cannot afford to continue with low COVID-19 vaccine uptake, particularly when it comes to steering the economy onto the path of recovery.
“When you look at Trinidad and Tobago and you have more than 70 per cent of your population unvaccinated, then that tells us we are in a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently.
We all want to have our beaches open, we want our schools fully open, we want business back open, we all want to have our celebrations, be it Carnival, Hosay, Divali, Eid, Christmas, Easter, we all want to get back there,” he said.
“But,” he continued, “the reality is that if we don’t understand that vaccination presents the fastest route to get in there and if we don’t apply that formula, then it’s going to be a long dark tunnel that Trinidad and Tobago is in for quite some time.”
George said mandatory vaccination needs to be put on the table, with exemptions for those who can’t take the COVID-19 jab for valid reasons.
He said: :The views of those who are against ought to be considered by the Government, so that whatever legislation is drafted or crafted will consider their views, with exemptions made so that people can apply for exemptions once they fit into specified categories.
So, it’s not something you are forcing on everybody. If you have a valid case for an exemption, then of course, you can make the application for the exemption. But, the reality is that one way or the other the fastest way for us all to get back to a sense of normalcy is for us to legislate to vaccinate.”
“We have to be realistic and understand that if we want to get back to some sort of normalcy, there is a bitter pill we have to swallow. We have to face it, we have to deal with it and the statistics show worldwide that vaccination is the best present available mechanism as a defence against the spread of COVID-19,” George said.
To date, 417,070 people have received their first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, while 228,175 have been administered both doses.
By: Darlisa Ghouralal