Dear Editor: Is the Govt too afraid of the Opposition to introduce mandatory vaccines?

Gems at Lajoya

“[…] Having apparently exhausted every avenue of encouraging vaccination apart from the obvious one, the official stance appears to be shifting to ‘well, we tried’.

On an intellectual level, I know why this is the most expedient approach… [However] if our Government, elected to lead in the best interests of everyone, makes decisions grounded in fear of how the Opposition will react, where does that leave us?”

The following Letter to the Editor on the issue of mandatory vaccination as a means to address the Covid-19 virus was submitted to Wired868 by Calisa Paulson, who is a professional writer:

Photo: Medical staff treat an ICU patient in Brazil.

As T&T’s Covid cases (and death count) continue to climb, as our parallel healthcare system nears capacity, and in the wake of the baffling decision to reopen school to unvaccinated children, I find myself wondering what this country considers acceptable losses—while we dither about what to do next.

The State has provided a variety of vaccination options free of charge for months. All manner of information relating to vaccination effects and effectiveness is also readily available from a number of reliable sources. Still, an alarming number of those of us who can be vaccinated continue to refuse to do so for a number of reasons. 

Having apparently exhausted every avenue of encouraging vaccination apart from the obvious one, the official stance appears to be shifting to ‘well, we tried’.

On an intellectual level, I know why this is the most expedient approach. The political cost of legally requiring people to do what is best for society at large is likely to be a very large one. 

Given how literally the Opposition party takes its title, I’ve no doubt they would be thrilled to have a reason to pretend to ‘fight for freedom’; and I have no doubt their most faithful supporters would love them for it.

Photo: Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) prepares her troops for ‘war’ in Parliament during an extraordinary sitting of the Lower House to vote on the possible impeachment of President Paula-Mae Weekes.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

The thing about the Overton window, though, is that when only one end of the political spectrum continuously adjusts its stance out of fear of how the other end will capitalise on it, things can only shift in one direction. 

If our government, elected to lead in the best interests of everyone, makes decisions grounded in fear of how the Opposition will react, where does that leave us? 

I can only speak for myself, but I voted the way I did because I preferred to have my country led by relatively rational adults during a global emergency. If they’re going to bow to irrational pressure from the people the voting populace didn’t choose, what exactly was the point?

And what will be the point when that time comes around again?

As to the legal intricacies of what it would take to finally do what obviously needs to be done—given that some of our constitutional rights are currently under indefinite suspension for our own good—I have no doubt that this nation’s elected leaders are capable of coming up with a legislative solution allowing them to continue to serve the public’s best interests.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi have a word in Parliament on 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

I’d ask them to be quick about it, though, because while we dither, people are dying and not all of them refused vaccination. Some can’t be vaccinated because their immune systems can’t handle it. Some were fully vaccinated, but a pre-existing condition combined with a breakthrough infection was just too much for their bodies to handle. 

Many people have pre-existing conditions completely unrelated to Covid but can’t get the surgeries or care they need while our healthcare providers and resources are tied up by the pandemic. Are they all acceptable casualties?

What about the children who are either too young to be vaccinated or whose parents won’t let them get vaccinated? What about all the related losses of the people who haven’t been able to provide for their families since March 2020?

I’m told that our current death rate from the virus is 3%, which means we can expect between 18,900 and 27,000 deaths in total if it holds steady. We’re at 1,668 as I type this and I’m wondering if this is what I have to brace for. 

As much as I could theoretically accept that those refusing to protect themselves have made their beds, I can’t quite trick myself into believing that they’re the only ones who will pay.

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  1. Since we’re in the territory of suppositions, why can’t it be that the government is afraid of its own support base?

    At almost 50-something percent unvaxxed, there is a good chance stronghold governmental supporters are also against vaccinations and would be against mandatory vaccinations.

    The Opposition here seems to be a convenient entity to blame to mask the Government’s lack of leadership.

  2. Earl Best

    You tell them, girl!

    Just don’t make the mistake of deluding yourself that the people within the Parliament and without who need to hear this are listening.

    Or are ever going to outside of election season.

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