It is now clear that the government was vainglorious in suggesting it had a definite, phased Covid-19 vaccination programme. It used the gift of vaccines, which it so ungraciously accepted from Barbados, to mamaguy us.
The extent of the mamaguy was underlined when a television station ran again last week the scene starring the minister of health in the midst of placards when, on 16 February, the Ministry of Health vaccinated 100 health care workers in the course of setting us up for what turned out to be a vaccine fiasco.
The original report carried by Guardian Media included quotes from the first recipient ‘getting the jab’. The report began as follows: “In a landmark move in the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, 100 frontline healthcare workers were the first to be inoculated as the Ministry of Health began its first phase of vaccinations at the Couva Multi-Training Facility yesterday. They received their first of two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”
But it was the minister of health posing in a photograph with five of the recipients, which contained what is now exposed as a gross mamaguy. This minister of health likes the TV too bad. He inserted himself in what he thought was a cute screen scene.
The recipients were holding placards, one of which proclaimed: ‘I got the Covid-19 vaccine. Go get vaccinated.’ Another said: ‘I got the Covid-19 vaccine today. You should too.’
The health minister was right there among the placards. These February doses were a misleading herald of ‘the first phase’ of vaccination rollout because the government has no vaccinations to give us. Go and get it where?
We usually associate placards with protest demonstrations. Older ones like me, waiting on the vaccine promised to us in ‘the first phase’ also remember well the use of placards in ol’ mas bands to explain the satirical portrayals—usually presented in old clothing, from which the term ol’ mas was derived as well as the phrase ‘everything tun’ ol’ mas’, meaning that a situation became out of control.
Currently, we have vaccination ol’ mas, and public communications chaos, so it is appropriate that the mamaguy was written on placards with the minister of health leading the band.
We have Jab Zeneca replacing Jab Molassi, clanking chains similar to Jab Jab but in this case devilishly chaining us to an uncertain future exit from the Covid-19 disaster.
The date of the mamaguy, 16 February, is also significant because other Caribbean countries had by then already sourced gift vaccines and received shipments of them. That is why Barbados had some vaccines to re-gift us and as a result the ministry was able to administer some show-off vaccines in mid-February.
Adding to the government’s nightmare communications tangle over vaccine acquisition, is the confusion over what went on between the health minister and the private sector.
Ansa McAl knew that if the government failed to nail down a reliable source of vaccines in significant quantities, then by dangling before the public that it can swiftly fill the void, the pressure on the government to buy from Ansa and get us vaccinated would mount; and a seller’s market would be created, as our anxieties are played upon.
Not surprisingly therefore, by the middle of last week, there were headlines that government and business leaders were ‘teaming up’ in the search for vaccines. The government cannot beat them, so it must join them. Thankfully that may be to the benefit of us all.
This is not the government’s finest hour. Many of its members need to humble themselves and talk soothingly like the Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Senator Amery Browne.
But even Minister Browne cannot credibly keep up the façade of ‘non-aligned’, which he is putting up, while we readily open up our country more and more for investment and undue influence by one side, in the new cold war between the US and China.
The government needs to come to grips with reality and do some introspection. It must cease its invective against those who express opinions, which the government is too shortsighted or becomes too angry to assess on their merits.