By Vishani Ragobeer
President Dr. Irfaan Ali has underscored that he has a responsibility to protect those people who have taken the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.
During a cabinet outreach on Saturday in Dartmouth along the Essequibo Coast in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), the President emphasised that the COVID-19 vaccines are life-saving medical tools that have been proven to reduce COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths. And, he reasoned that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the population has access to these vaccines.
Importantly, President Ali posited, “It is also my responsibility to protect those persons who want to take the vaccines and protect themselves.”
Though these vaccines are available to all adults and children older than 12, there has been some amount of hesitancy as a result of concerns that the vaccines were developed too quickly and that they are not safe.
The Head-of-State told the residents that advances in science and technology have facilitated the development of these vaccines, not unlike development in other areas such as transportation or technology.
Beyond addressing those concerns, the President highlighted the devastation of the novel coronavirus. For the month of September so far, more than 40 deaths have already been recorded. And while emphasising that COVID-19 vaccination is not compulsory, the President stressed that the vaccines are saving people’s lives. This, he said, is evidenced by the fact that more unvaccinated people are dying.
“It is not mandatory but you will have to live with the guilt if you deny someone the opportunity of taking the vaccine— and God forbids that person dies as an unvaccinated person,” he said too.
The President’s statements came against the backdrop of ongoing protests against the COVID-19 Emergency Measures that have been published in the Official Gazette. These measures, among other things, state that there are vaccination requirements before people can access public and some private buildings.
Some groups- including some of the local workers’ unions- have protested these measures, stating that they are forceful.
But President Ali said: “All this mamaguying… it’s not for me.
“… the vaccine is going to protect you and (it is) giving you a higher possibility to not die.”
Directly addressing concerns of parents whose children are eligible to receive the US-donated Pfizer vaccines, the President said that if a vaccine became available for his son (who is two years old), he would ensure that his son could be vaccinated.
The vaccines for children are not yet available for children under the age of 12. During a recent COVID-19 update, however, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony said that clinical trials are ongoing to determine whether the vaccines are safe for children aged five to 12 years old.