WHEN the coronavirus vaccine hit our shores earlier this year, we were pleasantly surprised at the large number of Saint Lucians who flocked to get vaccinated in the first few days of the vaccine’s availability to the public.
We were concerned that the heavy rotation of conspiracy theories on social media, warning against taking the jab would have led to large numbers of Saint Lucians staying away from inoculation centers.
This, apparently, was not the case.
Now, a mere two months after the vaccine’s arrival, health authorities are pleading with Saint Lucians to take the jab. What has happened to cause a tapering off of the population’s acceptance of the efficacy of the inoculation?
Local authorities are worried, and justifiably so, as the longer Saint Lucians take to reach herd immunity the longer it will take for the country to open up to the world for business. The longer that takes the greater will be the economic problems facing the country and its citizens.
There is also another fear, that of the vaccine reaching its expiration date as it waits on Saint Lucians to come get it.
While we join local authorities in calling on Saint Lucians to get the jab, we can’t help but wonder whether enough effort is being put into getting Saint Lucians to see the benefits, to them and country, in getting inoculated. There is doubt about the vaccine’s efficacy in the minds of too many Saint Lucians, due in part to their indecision regarding its effectiveness in stopping COVID and the many conspiracy theories against the vaccine that continue to swamp social media.
The full communication machinery of the government must be used to get its messages across to its citizens about the importance of getting vaccinated and to beat back the fear anyone may have about the vaccine’s ability to do what the experts say it can do.
We are not over-dramatising when we say that the COVID-19 situation in Saint Lucia is dire. Almost every day, for the past three weeks, we see new cases popping up. Diagnosed cases in country are over the 5000 mark. The death toll from the virus is climbing; 77 at last count.
The only way out of this COVID nightmare is through inoculation of all, or at the very least, 70% of the citizenry to achieve what has become known as herd immunity. The vaccine saves lives and halts outbreaks of the disease as it serves as a means of immunisation.
We all want this pandemic to go away, therefore we need to use all the tools available to us to fight it. The vaccine is one such tool, perhaps the biggest and best tool we have in our toolbox. Why not use it Saint Lucia? After all, the coronavirus is highly infectious and, in some cases, highly dangerous, not to say deadly.
Why then are Saint Lucians showing a reluctance to arm themselves with this tool, in the face of rising COVID-19 cases?
Perhaps it is time to revisit the strategy behind the inoculation process to make it more attractive to Saint Lucians. Is there an inducement that could be offered for taking the vaccine (the carrot) or a sanction for not (the stick)? After all, while further investigation is ongoing, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be infected and potentially less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.
Saint Lucia needs to fully open its doors to the world and the only way this could be done safely is for its population to be vaccinated, if not the economic hardship would only worsen.