Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Sorry Prof Knight, PM did in his job in referencing Guyana’s vaccination policy!

Dear Editor: Sorry Prof Knight, PM did in his job in referencing Guyana’s vaccination policy!

“[…] Prof [Andy] Knight also seems oblivious to the fact that many persons/organisations in T&T opposed to the PNM have been saying that the government was tardy in procuring/ordering/purchasing vaccines, and cited Guyana as a prime example of what should have been done. 

“In this regard, therefore, our PM had an obligation to inform his fellow citizens (he works for us) why that allegation was untrue, given the policy decision of our government—in keeping with best practice globally—not to order/procure/purchase/use vaccines that were not yet approved by the WHO…”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Louis Williams of Maraj Trace, St Augustine:

Photo: A doctor administers the Covid-vaccine in Trinidad.
(via MoH)

Please permit me to comment  on certain views  expressed by Professor Andy Knight as reported by journalist Ms Charlene Rampersad in [an article] in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian  on 19th June 2021, captioned: ‘Guyanese advisor who attacked PM on vaccines stands behind statements’.

Prof Knight has accused our PM of ‘misleading’ with a statement which by his (Knight’s) own admission is a fact, that is Guyana procured/purchased and has been using vaccines that had not yet received the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO). Facts are stubborn things, Prof Knight!

Prof Knight also seems oblivious to the fact that many persons/organisations in T&T opposed to the PNM have been saying that the government was tardy in procuring/ordering/purchasing vaccines, and cited Guyana as a prime example of what should have been done. 

In this regard, therefore, our PM had an obligation to inform his fellow citizens (he works for us) why that allegation was untrue, given the policy decision of our government—in keeping with best practice globally—not to order/procure/purchase/use vaccines that were not yet approved by the WHO. 

Failure to respond to the allegation of tardiness  would have resulted in many independent-minded citizens believing that the government was, indeed, at fault. Silence was not an option! 

Moreover, since Guyana was mentioned by many of the PM’s critics, he had to explain why he did not follow the route taken by Guyana. Thus, the PM took a common sense approach to this matter.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

Generally speaking, the government needs to articulate clearly why it has taken certain decisions and not pursued alternative approaches. The government also needs to respond, in a timely manner, to any criticism of its decisions. That way, independent-minded persons/floating voters, not ignoring the rest of the electorate, have a genuine basis for assessing the performance of the govt. 

In many instances, it is the floating voter that determines the outcome of elections.

Prof Knight indicated that Guyana received vaccines early in the current year, but admits that: ‘most vaccines around that time were still undergoing trials’. For obvious reasons of health, safety and efficacy, among other things, T&T, in keeping with global best practice, did not pursue that course of action. 

One ought not to risk the cure being worse than the disease. Approval by the WHO is accepted globally as the gold standard.

I do not know whether or not Prof Knight thinks that truth should be suppressed in the interest of his notion of diplomacy, having regard to the circumstances outlined above. I would hope not.

I am of the considered view that the PM was not being defensive, thin skinned, uncouth, ludicrous, undiplomatic, or lacking the decorum expected of a head of government. He was simply doing his job.

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2 comments

  1. Sheldon Waithe

    It is agreed that the PM did his job, but instead of comparing his handling of the crisis with Guyana, let us compare his handling with that of the Mauritius – an island nation with a population very close in number to TT.

    Mauritius’s government didn’t underestimate the virus – stringent measures were put in place from the start. Their borders were closed the day after the first cases were reported. This was followed by a curfew and a complete lockdown imposed within the week. At the beginning of the pandemic, Mauritians were only allowed to shop twice a week, in alphabetical order of surnames, with one person per household allowed to shop for 30 minutes.

    Overall, strong leadership guided Mauritius to success – only 1,375 cases, 18 deaths. Compare that with our reported 30,000 cases, and 750 deaths.

    Yes the PM did his job, but he did not do it particularly well.

  2. I would tend to disagree that “best global practice” was to await for WHO approval. We all know that the US, Canada, UK, Russia, China and many other countries ordered/implemented vaccines way before there was any WHO approval. This was a proactive step (it was very unlikely that Pfizer/AZ vaccines would not be approved for use).

    If we take the example of the UK, they ordered 100 million doses of AZ vaccine in June 2020 and 30 million doses of Pfizer in July 2020. This was 6 months before any WHO approval. Lots of countries (such as Israel) pre-empted the mad rush for vaccines and struck deals with the vaccine producers and are reaping the benefits of having significant proportions of their population vaccinated.