I have been following the unfolding drama regarding the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines between the Supermarkets Association and the Ministry of Health.
While the Government must be commended for its initial handling of the virus, somewhere along the way, they ‘dropped the ball’.
Yes, there were arrangements put in place to allow for delivery of vaccines by the end of March 2021. This was communicated to the general public on January 30, 2021, by the Minister of Health, ‘Trinidad is set to receive between 100,000 [and] 120,000 of AstraZeneca vaccines by the end of February to early March 2021.’
He further said, ‘T&T vaccine acquisition was being done through three channels, including the COVAX Facility: bilateral talks with manufacturers such as Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm, and through the Caricom initiatives using the African Medical Council, to procure vaccines for this region.’
They assured the public they had the capacity to store over 300,000 vaccines.
However, my question to the Government is: what happened? Did we solely rely on the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to honour its commitment, which was ‘equitable’ distribution of these vaccines to all stakeholders?
Were we so naive to take this for granted and just sit back and await this delivery without exploring alternative distribution channels? Did we cater for the what ifs?
While the Government of the day can sit back and say no reopening of the economy until 700,000 people have been vaccinated, the reality is without the generous intervention by the Barbados government, where would we be now?
While we sit and argue as to who can import these vaccines and at what cost, the economy is limping along. Thousands continue to be on the breadline without any hope of income while Government officials seem to be divorced from reality-after all, they are still in receipt of their full remuneration, inclusive of all allowances.
Some critical intervention is needed at this time. The Government must act with urgency and find a way to get vaccines in the shortest possible time (with or without the assistance of PAHO), even if it means engaging the help of private enterprise.
Now is not the time to play politics or allow for emotional outbursts. The time to act is now.